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Missing (tour - Ipswich, New Wolsey Theatre)

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
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How do you define the word “missing”? Something lost, something taken away – whether by consent or by force? Or something which was never there in the first place? Gecko’s latest touring piece shows Lily in search of her soul, which you might also define as her identity. Think conflict, both political and domestic, and those wanderers without proper homes who are simply known as “displaced persons”.

This being Gecko, the five devising performers – Anna Finkel, Georgina Roberts, David Bartholomew, Chris Evans and Ryen Perkins-Gangnes – in Amit Lahav’s creation use some exceptionally well-handled stage trickery and machinery as they tell Lily’s story. The design elements are by Lahav, Rhys Jarman and Chris Swain.

A bunraku-style puppet represents Lily as a child. The story unfolds on moving platforms, in disjointed room settings on two levels, with framing and displaying screens as well as through movement which is both recognisable dance and a sort of nightmare flailing – as though comforting bedclothes had suddenly transformed themselves into menacing, thorn-spiked branches.

It’s very intense and immensely concentrated, with little English dialogue and a strange, disjointed score by Dave Price, so that you find yourself straining to catch a word or phrase here and there – just as a stranger in a foreign land with only a rudimentary grasp of the language might do. Particularly when in a stressful situation.

Missing certainly holds its audience’s attention, and you can’t fault the commitment of the performers, but there’s a razor-topped barrier stretched between pretentious nonsense and something truly new and rare. Just very occasionally this production seemed to balance extremely precariously across it. But it does all stay in your memory well after you’ve returned home. For me, that's an acid test of good theatre.


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