Inspired by Gogol’s short story The Overcoat, the Ipswich-based Gecko Theatre Company has created this breath-taking piece of physical theatre to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the Russian author’s birth.
In a futile government department reminiscent of Chaplin’s Modern Times - Akakki falls in love with the beautiful Natalia. His feelings for her are not returned; this drives him to be the best and win the ultimate office prize – the overcoat – revered by all as a symbol of success. Get the coat, get the girl, change the world!
On a dark and brooding stage, an array of weird and wonderful visual imagery and stunning lighting effects (by Ti Green and James Farncombe respectively) create a surreal world of floating desks, labyrinthine corridors, pictures that come alive in their frames, moving walls, and a bed that "swallows" our hero, the unfortunate clerk Akakki (a charismatic and acrobatic performance by the extra-ordinary Amit Lahav, who also directs). The ensemble cast speak in a variety of languages, using movement, music and sounds, rather than words, to communicate with each other, and tell the story. Where this makes hard work for the audience to follow, those who put in the effort are richly rewarded by this stunning and hugely inventive production.
At a little over 70 minutes long (with no interval) Gecko avoid completely exhausting the audience – any longer and my concentration, at least, would have likely overdosed on all those visual metaphors. It is, after all, an intensive onslaught on your senses and sometimes, as they say, less is more.
Having toured to 15 countries with their award-winning productions, Gecko is fast becoming one of the leading international physical theatre companies,; The Overcoat is sure to add to their growing reputation.