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Review: Gecko Theatre's Missing

It was Gecko Theatre's trailer that drew me to want to Missing. It looked visually stunning, and an exception to the Fringe norm with it's heavy use of technology and staging. It also reminded me of the aesthetics of The Wooster Group and Complicite, which if that proved true - would only be a good thing.

Like Theatre Ad Infinitum's Ballad Of The Burning Star this production explores international themes and the effect that heritage and conflict in youth has on later life - though in a much different style.

To watch the trailer will give you a quick glimpse into the world they create with fragmented scenes utilising physical theatre, dance (both contemporary but also flamenco) and multiple languages.

The effect is dreamlike, often being not quite clear what is literally being said, and scenes and people quickly shifting - as we flit between real life, or rather a distorted perspective of real life, and memories.

The style in fact means that the production is open to interpretation - so these are but my thoughts on it, yours may be very different. Saying that though, myself and my Mum both came out with the same perspective on it all.

While from the style it made sound as if narrative would not be key but it really is - we just travel through it in a different way.

Our central character is Lilly - a woman in perhaps her thirties. She seems to be in turmoil, losing control and failing to connect with the world around her.

This rang bells of anxiety and depression to me, or at least that she was heading that way. As everyone around her is so fast and full of life, she struggles to understand, connect and feel the way that they are feeling. As everyone around her is laughing, she vulnerably asks "did I say something weird?" - unsure of herself and her reality.

A familiar moment arose in the club scene - with jovial dancing and laughing interrupted with Lilly's zoning out. The music and lighting changes to emphasise laboured breaths and those around her slow down. Here we see the moment of being surrounded by people yet feeling completely isolated - perhaps fuelled with a body swimming with alcohol.

Another moment perfectly captured through this clever use of lighting is Lilly lit up by a presumed laptop late at night - talking and swigging coffee, to keep going, to keep being effective - this whirlwind life that doesn't seem to stop for her.

In a more humourous scene we see a romantic encounter centring around watching television sitting on the sofa. So begins a dance of social awkwardness, highlighting the hyper-awareness of proximity you feel at the beginning of a relationship - trying and failing to be comfortable in a shared space.

Interspersed with this are scenes of Lilly's early life with her childhood self, represented by a puppet, singing to proud parents. We soon see her mother as a glamorous Spanish woman and her father as a British man, and the conflict within their marriage becomes quickly apparent.

Lilly enters what seems to be a kind of psychoanalysis based therapy - though much more conceptually than you would imagine. Her past is then played out, beyond what she can remember into the start of her parent's relationship which involves some funny and charming scenes. We then progress through bickering arguements into full-blown conflict and her mother leaving, seeing the little girl Lilly witnessing this all.

As we flit through scenes, we finally see Lilly breaking down on the floor, crying "I want to stop feeling like this" - the desperate sadness of the piece and of her life becomes fully apparent here, and weighs heavily on us.

We are granted however an uplifting resolution to the piece, as a final dance establishes Lilly's new found sense of self, and acceptance of her past. As an awkward anxious Brit, who reminded me a little of Caitlin Moran, to have an elegant flamenco dancer as a mother, who then walks out - there's no wonder there would be disconnect. So to see this acceptance is a joyous relief.

My only problem was that the ending felt played out a little too long. It seems this did need to be fully established to feel a justified sense of resolution but the repetition of this meant this lost a little of the effect for me, though watching was still enthralling for the stunning physicality.

Elements of the production did remind me of Complicite but perhaps some would say Complicite would be more accessible. With the multiple languages and the heavy reliance on visual imagery and contemporary dance, this may not be for everyone - my Mum understood the piece but didn't engage with it in the same way for example.

This production also elicited the only standing ovation I experienced in my time at the Fringe. It was deserved - with the concept and execution being extremely clever, but also such intense performances both from Anna Finkel and the ensemble around her.

Gecko Theatre's Missing plays at the Pleasance Courtyard at 1pm until 25 August.