There are few elements of the theatrical world that Civilian Theatre feels less qualified to talk about than cutting edge contemporary dance. Any reviewer who fits shows into their free time will eventually reach a point when you accept there is only so much they can actually watch and, as a result, an element of self-selection may creep into what press shows are attended.
So it is entirely possible that – had I read the programme notes for Gecko’s Missing more closely rather than be seduced by the intriguing image that accompanies it –the words ‘critically acclaimed physical dance company’ may have registered and I wouldn’t have crossed London to make it to the Battersea Arts Centre to watch their show.
And what a fool I would have been.
Missing is an intelligent, beautiful show that speaks volumes even to the choreographically illiterate. It may not have transformed my overall impressions about contemporary dance but it has shown that the form can be used to tell a story just as clearly as through the use of words.
The difference between Gecko and other shows I have seen is that the performance lacks the abstraction that can leave the inexperienced scratching their heads. Previously I have been unable to translate a plot synopsis to what I have been watching but here the narrative progression was entirely clear and the company seemed focussed on not losing its audience. Scenes took place within established settings and the movements between performers seemed structured to reflect traditional conversations but with the added advantage that dance allows of allowing the text and subtext of character motivations to interweave in their actions.
There was also little of the po-faced seriousness that has been a marked feature of my previous encounters with contemporary dance. Whilst the topic itself was treated seriously, they also found the humour that can be mined out of the awkwardness of relationships. The fracture lines that marked Lily’s marriage were played to great comic effect in a simple scene showing how they were unable to sit comfortably together watching a film, whilst the meeting of her parents became a slapstick encounter made more poignant with the knowledge of how it would eventually disintegrate.