After its opening at The Battersea Arts Centre in 2015, the run of Gecko’s physical theatre production, Missing, was interrupted when a fire destroyed the iconic venue’s Grand Hall. After repairs and renovations, the show has been reintroduced as the opening of the centre’s Phoenix Season, and what an opening it is…
Missing is certainly not your average piece of theatre. The distinct lack of dialogue may initially intimidate viewers that do not usually expose themselves to such pieces, but I urge you to see it. What this show does so well is to communicate a kaleidoscope of emotions in the most human way possible: the movements of the cast, performed in an intricate and complex choreography for the duration of the show, express everything you need to know, and are even almost primal at parts. The cast, through their physicality, do not just tell you the story of Lily, a woman emotionally damaged by the breakdown of her parents’ marriage, but show you it and, more importantly, present it to you in a way that makes you feel her pain for yourself.
The choreography and composition of this production is nothing short of mesmerising. There is not a single moment that does not demand your full attention, no movement wasted, and no action without significance or consequence. There is a risk, I think, when relying heavily on physical theatre to express a story such as this one, that you will lose the audience’s attention or fascination as the show goes on. That simply doesn’t occur with Missing. Before a sequence has the chance to become uninteresting, it is interrupted, sometimes only momentarily, with a flashback, or the glimmer of a memory from Lily’s childhood, and then snapped back into the present moment or into a new sequence.
The little dialogue that is present in the piece is spoken in a range of European languages, which, for me at least, merely reiterates the universality of the emotions that are evoked by the actors’ movements. You do not need to understand the words that they are saying, for their movements and how they speak communicate to you more than the words themselves could anyway.
While this kind of production may not appeal to every kind of theatre fan, it is the kind of show that is unmissable merely for what it achieves and how it does it. If you go only to appreciate the intricacy of the movements and experience the emotions that it evokes, Missing is guaranteed to leave a lasting impression.