Maria Forryan labels this a must watch – ‘The quality of this work is beautiful to watch and the sheer passion and focus of the cast is staggering.’
Gecko have been a prolific Theatre Company throughout lockdown, providing regular free productions online. For a Drama teacher like me, it’s been an invaluable resource, enabling students to easily access a range of good quality productions to study.
For this new production, Gecko has teamed up with Mind The Gap, England’s leading learning disability Theatre Company, based in Bradford. This piece originally toured in 2019 but has now been commissioned into a film by The Space, a company who help support arts organisations reach a wider audience base online. The end product is a show that combines some elements of film making with the original theatre production.
‘A Little Space’ is set in an apartment block, showing the lives of 5 people and the effects of what happens when they connect and disconnect with each other. Some are searching for a little space whilst others have it forced upon them.
Gecko is an accomplished physical theatre company. and this is the first thing you notice about the show – it’s not all back flips and dancing, but instead they use symbolism and movement to express feelings and events. The five performers, Paul Bates, Lorraine Brown, Alison Colborne, JoAnne Haines, and Charlotte Jones, work very much as an ensemble, meaning the work flows seamlessly and creatively from one moment to another. There is very little dialogue, which works beautifully well with this style of theatre, although it does at times make the performance a little hard to follow. Luckily though, the fantastic design of this production and the overall creative direction, devised in collaboration with the performers, means there is a lot to keep you engaged. The lighting design, by Chris Swain, is extremely effective, setting the atmosphere and adding visual variety. Though the incidental music lacks this variety, the choice of music in particular sections to create energy and pace really stands out, such as the first morning routine of the couple.
The set and props, by Rhys Jarman, need a specific mention, being completely unique and subtly manipulatable. The pipes surrounding the stage suggest the environment; the claustrophobia of the apartments. The movable floorboards are particularly clever and are a little bit creepy when a hand appears with a ghostly light behind: at one point one of the ensemble even gets taken down into it which was fantastic!
The most relatable moment is that of the man becoming obsessed with the TV. This is where the show really sees the benefit of being combined with film. Again, he appears to be drawn into the tv in a scene reminiscent of Poltergeist, only to wake up in a clip straight from ‘Coronation Street’. I absolutely loved the use of audio from the programme over the top of the action, adding comedy but also a mirror image to his real life and the relationship he was destroying.
For anyone studying Drama this is a must watch production. It has the feel of a strong A !evel exam production about it and students could really learn techniques in terms of ensemble work and effective use of symbolism. It does get a little repetitive at times and the story is not easy to follow, but there is a lot of excellent work here. Those studying technical disciplines should especially use this as a guide to how lighting and set can be fully incorporated within the story and intertwined with the action.
The work that Mind The Gap is creating and the opportunities that they are generating for those with learning disabilities are remarkable. The quality of this work is beautiful to watch and the sheer passion and focus shown by the cast is staggering. This company is showing what barriers can be broken and what can be achieved, and by collaborating with others they are now able to share their work and beliefs with an even wider audience. Let’s hope we see more pieces like this in the future.
Feature photograph: Paul Bates. All photographs provided by Mind The Gap.