DANCE: You don't have to be a gecko to enjoy working here...
Sunday 06 February 2005
The Race is a cartoon-style study of one man's existential crisis, following his movements through a day at the office and an energetic clubbing spree. The show draws chiefly on a mix of rough-and-tumble dance and bouncy caricature, relying on props such as office tables and swivel chairs, and less successfully, bungee ropes. The show's most stylish visual device is a mobile cut-out aperture in the front cloth which allows individuals - or parts of them, or several in sequence - to be tightly framed in a moving window of light with the rest of the stage blacked out. It's like peering through a chink in a fence. Focus is intensified, details leap out. Framed so, a man in a suit walks briskly on a treadmill, clearly on his way to work. In fact the treadmill is set on a slow revolve which makes it seem that the spectator is in motion and the figure on stage is static - a mind-swimming effect that could have been exploited further. But the framing idea is a smart piece of design, literally keeping the show flowing as it scans horizontally across the stage, cleverly suggesting claustrophobia as the dark edges close in.
There is some lovely comedy in a frenetic office scene, with people tipping out of chairs only to tip back into another that has deftly zoomed into place under their bottom. There's a perky coffee-drinking gag, with cups passed and drained and recycled on a kinetic loop. Meetings take place on a table top using colleagues' heads as stools. Surfing from image to image, the swell of physical energy is explosive. The point being made is that, for all our frantic yakking into phones, jawing in meetings, hammering out emails, people are not communicating. The trouble is, this all looked such fun, it made me want to work in an office.
One of Gecko's trademarks is that its performers speak. Not that there's a text, exactly - this is an abstract, choral use of spoken sound, with crescendos and sudden diminuendos that leave odd phrases stranded and eerily clear. The group has clearly worked hard on this technique, and brings it off with panache. Less memorable is the fuzzy narrative, though I did love the moment when the protagonist picks up the phone only to hear a new born baby crying. Taking a pair of scissors, he promptly snips through the phone flex and cradles the receiver in the crook of his elbow - every inch the new father.
`The Race': BAC (020 7223 2223), to 13 February; Brighton Komedia (01273 647100), 15-19 February; Warwick Arts Centre (024 7652 4524), 23-26 February
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