Fagin’s Twist, The Place

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By Laura Kressly

Charles Dickens’ story of the orphan boy who nicely asked for more dinner in an orphanage before training to become a pickpocket is here refocused on the older ringleader of Victorian London’s underworld, Fagin. In the musical and film, little is shared of Fagin’s backstory.  But it is the beginning of this contemporary dance piece in two acts.

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DeadClub™, The Place

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by guest critic Archie Whyld

Co-directors Frauke Requardt and David Rosenberg have created a piece of theatre which might be the closest I have ever felt to being in a dream whilst awake and not under the influence of psychoactive drugs.

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Institute, The Place

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Say your only close friends are people you work with. Can you trust them to help you out if you’re struggling with your health? Martin’s mental health is deteriorating, so Daniel, Louis and Karl try their best to care for him despite their own inner demons and needing to be looked after as well. With a distinctive physical vocabulary and a masculine camaraderie, Gecko’s Institute is an absorbing look at a society made of lonely, needy people without the safety net that family can provide.

Rhys Jarman and Amit Lahav’s deceptively simple set of Victorian wooden filing cabinets is loaded with the possibility of discovery and serves as a convenient place for the characters to store their memories, good and bad. The moments that new items are revealed are a wonderfully surprising juxtaposition to the hulking, boxy structures. Lahav and Chris Swain’s lighting design dark and atmospheric, sharpened by the addition of otherwise unnecessary smoke. Both serve the choreography well, without drawing too much attention onto the design.

Lahav also directs this devised piece, and performs as Martin. Considering he is also the artistic director of the company, it is a true marvel, and a testament to his talent, that none of his production roles suffer. He seemlessly incorporates multiple languages and regular movement sequences that are tightly choreographed and emotive expressions of his characters. The characters puppeteering of each other is a powerfully visualised (and sometimes sinister) metaphor of helplessness at the hands of external forces and the support that peers can offer – or not offer. It’s a visually arresting comment on the support and limitations of others on our individual lives.

The strong sense of brotherhood imbedded in the choreography is a lovely thing to witness. There’s a physical comfort the performers have with each other that blends with the characterisation, making the moments where they treat each other badly all the more shocking. The single female character, Martin’s imaginary girlfriend Margaret, is inventively shown, through costume and movement, but her appearance in a plastic cube is anticlimactic. The whole piece starts to feel too long towards the end, though none of the scenes are gratuitous.

Institute is typical Gecko fare, but the character’s relationships and externalised emotions are the finest features in this physical theatre performance. It’s some of best, most reliable physical theatre work out there at the moment, and Gecko retain the ability to surprise as well as showcase their unique theatrical language.

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Domestic Labour, everything theatre

“…the performance was much more theatre than dance. It addressed a range of themes and ideas drawing on the experiences of the Iranian-British male author: feminism, domestic responsibility/burden, motherhood, revolution, sex, bicycles and headscarves…

“…The dark stage was peppered with old-fashioned hoovers and appliances each lit with a small spotlight. It was a striking visual. As the performance started, three women interacted with these props in a range of ways, from cradling them like a baby to holding them like guns. They showed both affection and aggression, much like the emotional life of a vintage housewife. This sequence showed subtle influence by contemporary dance…

“The performance was incredibly visual, though not without some technical hitches. The lighting design seemed well intentioned, but did not always suit the staging. For example, one moment had the performers’ faces in darkness whilst the rest of them was lit. In another, a light box was not big enough to light all three…These problems were countered by stunning moments, such as creating a stationary bicycle using a small heater, a hoover full of dust and a bike…

“The show was non-linear, passing back and forth through time. An Iranian man marries an English woman in the present day, but Iranian women are emancipated in 1936. Several characters experience a revolution and discuss the withdrawal method of birth control. These women, though indistinct characters, still provoked audience empathy…

Read the entire review on everything theatre here.