a little space is a collaboration between Gecko, an internationally acclaimed physical theatre company and Mind the Gap, one of Europe’s leading learning disabled theatre companies.It is a marriage of both of their trademarks – actors with learning disabilities performing physical theatre.
A couple of years ago I co-produced a couple of projects with Mind the Gap. My experience was one of the best I’ve had professionally. The company are warm, supportive and without ego or pretention. I used to love visiting their building in Bradford, you walk into a community, and in between rehearsals or workshops the communal area fills up with a buzz of excitement.
And their productions (mostly recently Zara – ‘a giant outdoor theatre experience’) always turned up at full volume and zoomed in at 100% are visceral and affecting. The directors seem to me to always have worked in unison with their actors, who know their individual strengths, as well as how they can support one another.
This mini love letter to Mind the Gap is not irrelevant, it was the genuine ‘in- it- together’ ensemble that struck me the most. However, when you walk into the theatre, it is Gecko that you notice. The perfectly put together sound, set and lighting design does make for a strong aesthetic. I am sure this is what most people will comment on but personally, I didn’t find it so impressive.
As the performance begins Mind the Gap take centre stage. Paul, JoAnne, Alison, Charlotte and Lorraine move through their own very personal narratives, we see them in the pleasure of their ‘little space,’ as well as in the often jarring and confusing space that is the human conscious. Jumping through TVs, running through doors and being pulled under the stage, I really enjoyed the abrupt transitions between realities and surrealities. It sits in that middle ground of our imaginations: irrational, bizarre and sometimes very uncomfortable.
Although I might have been imagining it, I saw small sequences of movement repeated throughout that were personal to each actor. I assume they choreographed these themselves and unless I’m totally off the mark, you could tell. I felt that in these moments the actors were really comfortable and happy in ‘a little space’ of their own.However, as they delve into narratives that belong to each of them, I felt that the direction imposed itself.
I had this niggling feeling that the actors were being squished into too small a space. And so although this maybe has to do with my personal connection to the company, I enjoyed Mind the Gap more than I enjoyed Gecko.
A Little Space is touring the UK until May 16th with performances in Canterbury, Hove, Manchester, Derby, Oxford, Leeds, Ipswich, Exeter and London. For more information and tickets, see the Gecko website.