The award winning and internationally acclaimed Physical Theatre Company; Gecko was founded by artistic director Amit Lahav in 2001 with the aim to create physical and visual theatre that has the audience at the heart of the narrative at all times. Their work is mostly open to interpretation; for an audience member this can make their work quite ambiguous, however, you begin to find commonalities between your own life and the story unfolding on stage.
Following an organic process of creation to devise a new piece of work the company go through extremely focused periods of experimentation; working with new choreography, making brave choices and learning from their mistakes. They incorporate sonic and technical progress alongside the development of the choreography to ensure the end product is very slick and well rehearsed. One of the elements of Geckos creation process that I find particularly interesting is that they continue to develop their work while they are touring. I love the idea that the performance that one audience sees is not the same as what another audience will see because the piece is constantly evolving.
Geckos show ‘Institute’ is the best piece of physical theatre I have ever seen.The show toured to the Northern Stage in 2015; the performance was amazing, every element of the piece had a purpose and the way the lighting, sound and choreography worked together was faultless. Seeing this performance opened a door for me and helped me realise the type of theatre that I wanted a career in. Since then the majority of pieces I have worked on at College or University are Physical Theatre performances. If you ever get a chance to see one of Gecko’s shows I would highly recommend doing so. This performance was set around the theme of ‘caring’; aiming to make the audience think about what it means to care and explore human behavior. The company paired up with Suffolk Mind and worked with mental health networks to delve further into the issues of mental well-being for the performance.
After watching the performance we stayed for a post-show discussion which was really useful in understanding the process and intention behind the piece. One individual asked about what the performance was about and Amit replied, that it depended on what the performance meant to you as an individual and how you interpreted it. I found this really inspiring as it meant that each person that had watched the piece experienced something different on a personal level and related to the performance in their own way.
Here is the trailer for Geckos’ show ‘Institute’:
Geckos Shows :
– BBC Time of Your Life
– The Overcoat
– The Arab and the Jew
– The Race
– Taylor’s Dummies
You can view Gecko’s past performances in full on their website, with trailers for shows that are touring:
A day in the life of a Theatre Manager.
After speaking with Gecko Physical Theatre Company’s manager, Belinda Farrell, we decided to set up a Q&A as to what life is like for a Theatre Company Manager.
What type of training would you advise an aspiring theatre manager to have?
Understanding finance is always hugely useful as so much of what you do comes down to the money so it’s an incredibly valuable skill to have. There are courses you can do to train to be an arts manager which I would think would be very useful. You can also work your way up through the ranks. We had an intern for six months at Gecko and he’s just got his first job as Production and Marketing Assistant which is great news. He did our internship and a further 3 month internship in London to build up his experience. So a lot of the time you learn on the job once you get a foot on the ladder. Get as much experience as you can and remember a lot of experience is transferable.
How did your career as a theatre manager start?
I was in a youth theatre when I was a teen which sparked my interest in the theatre world and meant I went to college to study drama and English. The course was very hands on with lots of opportunities to get involved in productions outside the course. While acting wasn’t ultimately for me I got my first [paid] job working as a technical assistant stage manager, which gave me my necessary (at that time) Equity Card, and then kept going on that side of things with different contracts, some in theatres, some with touring companies. I was given an opportunity to organise a festival at Theatr Clwyd, while I was a stage manager there and this gave me some additional planning and management skills which helped me move into an administrator role with a theatre in education company. Then I moved from job to job every few years.
What is a typical day in the life of a theatre manager like?
As a general manager, it’s your job to manage the business of the company so you might be speaking to the landlord about the rent, or reconciling budgets, writing reports or business planning. I support the board of directors as well and prepare the board meetings. If you have a team, you will be making sure they’re doing their jobs and everything is going well for them, so looking after the HR side of things. It’s generally a 9-5 sort of job with occasional evenings and weekends depending on what’s going on. The job also depends on the sort of company you’re working for as the requirements may vary.
What is the most difficult aspect of your job?
The multitasking! Trying to juggle lots of jobs and dealing with unexpected issues that arise on a regular basis.
What is the best aspect of your job?
We have a fantastic team of people at Gecko! From the performers and technical team, to the office team and management, everyone is hugely dedicated and works incredibly hard to support the shows which are brilliant (of course!). And while the multitasking can be difficult, it also brings variety to the job which can be very exciting. And the shows are amazing! (Have I said that already?!)
What is it like to be the manager of Gecko Physical Theatre Company?
At Gecko, we have an Artistic Director, an Executive Producer, Projects and Participation Manager, Company Administrator and General Manager who are all permanent. We also have the performers, technicians, two associate directors and a finance manager who are all freelance. Amit Lahav, our Artistic Director, founded the company in 2001 and creates all Gecko’s shows. Roz, our Executive Producer, produces all the shows, raising money by applying for different funding organisations and responding to different opportunities that arise. For example in 2015 we applied and were commissioned to produce a new half hour show for live broadcast and Amit created The Time of Your Life which was aired on BBC4 as part of Live From Television Centre. Roz also applied to the British Council to be part of the Shakespeare Lives project and our co-production with Shanghai Dramatic Arts Centre [SDAC], The Dreamer, ran in Shanghai in 2016 and is now on at The Pleasance Grand as part of the Edinburgh Festival until 15th August. The Dreamer was created by our Associate Director Rich Rusk and one of our core performers, Chris Evans. They both went to Shanghai to work with the performers and technical team at SDAC.
It’s mainly me, our Projects and Participation Manager, Pippa and Company Administrator Manwah in the office and it’s always really busy! Gecko does a lot of education workshops and projects as well as the shows and Pippa manages there and there’s always lots to sort out for those. Pippa also works very closely with Roz and does a lot of Producing work. With a cast of nine in The Wedding there’s a huge amount of travel and accommodation details to arrange which is what Manwah’s doing at the moment.
I’m currently working on the business plan which we need to have drafted for the board meeting at the end of September. We’re funded by the Arts Council England as part of their national portfolio (NPO) and heard recently that we will continue to receive funding for 2018-22. So there’s lots of planning and policies to write and refresh for that.
What is Geckos’ up and coming show based on and where will it be touring?
Our latest show is The Wedding which explores the marriage between the individual and the state, asking questions of this relationship. It interrogates social isolation and what it means to be stateless, engaging with current issues of the rise of populism across Europe and beyond, mass migration and refugee status. It will be touring to HOME in Manchester, 12-16 September; Exeter Northcott, 21-23 September; Lighthouse Poole, 3 October; Hall for Cornwall 6-7 October. We were successful with an Arts Council Strategic Touring bid which means The Wedding will be touring nationally from January to March 2018 and venues include Watford Palace, Nottingham Playhouse, Derby Theatre and the Nuffield Theatre in Southampton. We’re in the process of confirming a further four venues so keep an eye on our websitewww.geckotheatre.com, and hopefully we’ll be coming to a venue somewhere near you!
I would like to thank Gecko Physical Theatre Company for their collaboration on this post. Thank you for reading @thedramastudentblog
If there are any questions please comment below.