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“The attention to detail extends to all aspects of this beautifully realised production.” «««« The Independent


“The choreography is wonderfully eclectic and expressive, and performed by all four men with exquisite precision and feeling.” «««« Financial Times, Sarah Hemming

Founded in 2001, Gecko is an award winning, internationally acclaimed physical theatre company, led by Artistic Director Amit Lahav. With an expanding ensemble of international performers and makers, we create work through collaboration, experimentation and play, working across diverse age groups nationalities and forms. Touring both nationally and internationally, we continue to develop strong partnerships around the world. Beyond the stage, we aspire to open the doors of our process via every possible avenue: be it digital, in schools or through building one to one relationships with our audiences. A Gecko show is visual, visceral, ambitious theatre crafted to inspire, move and entertain. We strive to make our work wide open to interpretation, putting the audience at the heart of the narrative. Amit has created an organic devising process that oscillates between intense periods of experimentation and making brave leaps through choreography, writing, storyboarding, drawing and reflection. We currently have two productions touring worldwide - Missing and Institute - and are in the development phase of our seventh touring production (working title) The Wedding. In 2015, Gecko was selected to be part of the BBC’s On Stage: Live From Television Centre programme, creating a brand new 30 minute piece entitled The Time of Your Life that was broadcast live on BBC4 in November 2015 and seen by over 76,000 people. Gecko.Theatre1 @GeckoTheatre @GeckoTheatre


INSTITUTE Created by:

Amit Lahav


Rosalind Wynn

Production Manager:

Nathan Johnson

Devising Performers:

Chris Evans Amit Lahav Ryen Perkins-Gangnes François Testory

Set Design:

Rhys Jarman and Amit Lahav

Lighting Design:

Chris Swain and Amit Lahav

Original Music:

Dave Price

Associate Directors:

Rich Rusk and Helen Baggett

Sound Designer:

Nathan Johnson

Costume Supervisor:

Amy Cook

Technical Manager:

Andres Velasquez

Company Stage Managers:

Tanya Stephenson and Laura Hammond


Gareth Green


Dave Price & James Alsopp

Solo Vocalist:

François Testory

Ritual Dance Vocals:

Chris Evans and Amit Lahav

The Gecko Office Artistic Director:

Amit Lahav

Executive Producer:

Rosalind Wynn

General Manager:

Belinda Farrell

Production Manager:

Nathan Johnson

Finance Manager:

Andy Brumwell

Company Administrator:

Pippa Fox


Terri Winwood

Administrative Intern:

Thomas Holloway

“Bravery and physical distinctiveness has always distinguished Gecko’s work.” The Guardian, Lyn Gardner

INSTITUTE : THE STORY SO FAR In 2012 Gecko’s Artistic Director Amit Lahav began to develop Institute. Interested in the idea of care, he explored its role within our modern society. During development in early 2013, Gecko invited a select panel of inspirational artists, support workers, patients and carers of various fields into the room to explore a range of themes and relationships relating to care. The rich findings of that extraordinary initial development, and the personal stories that emerged, have fuelled Institute. With each new show, we build on our established working methodology of physical exploration and theatrical invention. Institute premiered in 2014 and toured across the UK before a month long run at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2015. The show continues to tour both nationally and internationally.

DIRECTOR’S NOTE: “When the time comes, will anyone really care? This feels to me like the right time to be asking this question. We are entering a time in which we are potentially more fractured and disconnected from one another than ever before. Are we losing our ability to read each other and therefore protect and care for one another? Alongside this, the notion of care has become a political currency, spoken about in the media every day. Institute is driven by Gecko’s desire to explore complexities in human nature; our impulse to care and our complete reliance on one another. We’ve created a very intimate, funny and revealing experience in Gecko’s physical, honest and generous style. A world where everyone relies on someone to catch them.” Amit Lahav

CAST & CREATIVE TEAM BIOGRAPHIES Amit Lahav is the Artistic Director of Gecko and has created six critically acclaimed shows; Taylor’s Dummies, The Race, The Arab and the Jew, The Overcoat, Missing and Institute, all of which have toured nationally and internationally. Amit has performed in all six productions. In 2015, Amit created and performed in The Time of Your Life, which was broadcast live on BBC4 as part of Live From Television Centre. Amit has worked as a Director, Facilitator, Writer and Choreographer for numerous companies throughout the world and in recent years he has mentored young artists and companies as they search for theatrical language. Amit’s next venture is creating Gecko’s seventh touring production, which will premiere in 2017. Chris Evans began his career with Hofesh Shechter Company, performing as one of its original members, and touring worldwide. During this time, he also collaborated with Jonathan Lunn to devise Reading Rooms, a dance/text interplay working with Alan Rickman, Juliet Stevenson, and Miranda Richardson. He later joined Lost Dog Theatre Company, co-devising It Needs Horses, which toured internationally and won the Bloomburg Place Prize Award for dance. Chris has been a member of Gecko since 2011 and has worked on the creation of both Missing and Institute, touring both productions worldwide. He is now working on his third show with the company. Chris still continues a creative relationship with Hofesh Shechter, joining him on two major projects; as Assistant Choreographer for The Metropolitan Opera’s new creation Two Boys, and Associate Choreographer for the Broadway Musical Fiddler on the Roof. Ryen Perkins-Gangnes has been working with Gecko since January 2012 helping to devise Missing and Institute and touring in both productions. He also performed in The Time of Your Life which was broadcast live on BBC4. He was a cast member in Paramount’s 2013 film World War Z, and worked closely with Oscar award winner Andy Jones and choreographer

Alex Reynolds to create the movement language for the zombies in the film as movement specialist. He worked with the Cholmondeleys and the Featherstonehaughs from 2003, and spent two years as Lea Anderson’s assistant. He has performed with numerous other companies and choreographers, such as Gary Clarke, Frauke Requardt, and Fabulous Beast. François Testory started his career as a dancer training at Mudra the Maurice Béjart School of Performing Arts. He then joined the legendary Lindsay Kemp Company, soon becoming one of its principal members and remains one of his collaborators to this day. He has collaborated with many diverse companies such as Ballet Rambert, Rose English, Simon Vincenzi, DV8 Physical Theatre, Punchdrunk and many more. He also sings with Medieval Polyphony ensemble Graindelavoix, Electro Group Coil, Laniakea. For Gecko, François has performed in and helped create The Overcoat, Missing and Institute. Rhys Jarman was one of the winners of the 2007 Linbury Biennial Prize for his designs of Varjak Paw (The Opera Group). New work includes James and the Giant Peach (Northern Stage) and The Machine Stops for York Theatre Royal. In 2015 he designed The Wonderful Wizard of Oz (Northern Stage); Hurling Rubble at the Sun and Hurling Rubble at the Moon (Park Theatre). Designs for Gecko include Missing, Institute and The Time of Your Life (BBC co-production). Recent theatre work includes The Nutcracker (Nuffield Theatre), Holes and Threeway. Rhys has also designed for opera, television and a range of outdoor site specific work. Chris Swain is a Lighting Designer and Production Manager. He has worked extensively with Gecko - lighting design for the company includes The Time of Your life (for a televised performance on the BBC), Institute and Missing, as well as working as a production manager on Institute and The Overcoat. Recent lighting designs include: Blue Heart and The Light Princess for The Tobacco Factory Theatre, the Samuel Beckett prize winning Paper Architect for paper and projection artists The McGuires, The site specific dance performance Casting Traces for New Movement Collective, and Who Killed Bambi? and Metropolis for choreographer Renaud Wiser. He has production managed for Mark Bruce Dance Company - making and touring Dracula (which won 3 critic’s circle awards, and a South Bank Sky Arts award), Made in Heaven, Love and War, Sleepdogs – making sci-fi drama Dark Land Light House, Mayfest Theatre Festival - production

managing 3 festivals from 2011 to 2013, and New International Encounter - making Hansel & Gretel for the Tobacco Factory. Dave Price has worked as a composer, multiinstrumentalist, performer, sound designer, music producer, teacher and a drummer in a pop band. He has a longstanding association with Gecko, performing in Taylor’s Dummies and The Overcoat, and composing original scores for The Overcoat, Missing, Institute, The Time of Your Life and The Dreamer. Other recent theatre includes Cymbeline (RSC), From Morning to Midnight (National Theatre) The Emperor (Young Vic / HOME) and The Funfair (HOME). Dave co-founded the contemporary music collective Noszferatu and has recorded and toured extensively with many bands including five albums with Aqualung and numerous projects with Gwyneth Herbert, co-producing her 2013 album The Sea Cabinet. Previous to working full time with Gecko, Nathan Johnson was a freelance Production and Technical Manager, working within the arts industry for 14 years. During this time he worked with companies such as Russell Maliphant, Akram Khan, Theatre Rites, Sadhana Dance and Dream Think Speak. Rich Rusk is a Director specialising in ensemble physical theatre. For 8 years Rich has toured nationally and internationally with Gecko on productions including Missing, Institute and The Overcoat. Rich has toured and made work throughout Europe, Asia and America. Rich has been involved in the creation of over 30 five-star Edinburgh Fringe Festival productions and has been nominated for a range of theatre awards in the UK. Rich enjoys a collaborative approach to theatre and has worked with some of the UKs top devising companies. Rich is also a passionate mentor and supporter of innovative young companies. Helen Baggett is an Associate Director of Gecko, and develops and leads many of the company’s residencies, workshops and community projects. She was a founding member of CandoCo Dance Company and danced with the company for 8 years. With the other performers, she developed and delivered the company’s groundbreaking international education programme. In 1999, she joined the Argentinean company De La Guarda as performer and captain of the aerial show Villa Villa. In 2000, Helen joined the David Glass Ensemble as a performer, choreographer

and project leader for The Lost Child Project; an international programme of participatory theatre projects for marginalised young people. She has led many workshops and training days across the UK in facilitation, physical theatre and inclusive practice and since 2008 she has worked closely with the New Wolsey Theatre’s Creative Learning team in Ipswich.. Rosalind Wynn is Gecko’s Executive Producer and has been working with the company since August 2013. For Gecko she has worked on UK and international touring of Missing and Institute and also produced The Time of Your Life for Live From Television Centre. She previously worked as Producer for Coney and as Project Manager for Fuel and Belluard Festival Switzerland as well as producing numerous freelance projects. Tanya Stephenson is a Company Stage Manager, theatre designer and maker with an MA in Advanced Theatre Practice from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama. She won the Francis Reid Lighting Design award in 2010 and has recently worked in a technical and production capacity with companies such as Fuel, The Invisible Dot and Stomp, as well as Gecko. Laura Hammond works as a freelance Company Stage Manager and has worked with Gecko on both Missing and Institute. Laura started her career on a Technical Internship with the Lakeside Theatre in Colchester and has worked for a variety of different companies such as Theatre Rites, Little Bulb, Battersea Arts Centre, Clod Ensemble, A Taste Of Space, The Hal Company, Gomito Productions, Eastern Angles Theatre Co. and Theatre Royal Bury St Edmunds. Andres Velasquez trained as a performer in Corporeal Mime in Colombia and London. He became involved in backstage work by accident and is now as much in love with theatre behind the scenes as on stage. Gareth Green works as a Freelance Lighting Designer and Production Manager for companies such as: 5 Men Dancing, Eva Recacha (Place Prize Finalist 2011, 2013), h2dance, Jose Vidal (Place Prize Semi Finalist 2008), Katie Green, London Contemporary Dance School, The London Eye, Lost Dog, MWAG (Place Prize Semi Finalist 2006), Oskola (Euskal Herria), Rick Nodine (Place Prize Finalist 2013) and Neat Timothy amongst others. He is currently the freelance Production Manager for Wired Aerial Theatre and works as Re-Lighter for Gecko.


Gecko shows are intended to act as a provocation to the audience, encouraging a personal response and asking each audience member to place him or herself within the show. Upon touring Institute, we discovered that some audience members feel this personal response profoundly and seem to need care themselves after the show. We have had numerous conversations with audience members touching on their own experiences of care and mental health. When we began to develop Institute, there were three male performers and a female performer. The female performer was often assigned the traditional elements of care. During the two year development of the show, Amit decided to replace the female role with a fourth male performer to explore care mechanisms between men. The decision has raised interesting questions of masculinity, strength versus fragility, and, tied to this, male mental health. We sensed a great opportunity for additional activity that would continue to explore the themes we raise within the show with experts in the field more able to offer substantial support than us. At Suffolk Mind, the Suffolk branch of the national mental health charity, we are accustomed to working with a diverse

range of organisations. Adding Gecko to our network of forward thinking partners is both a privilege and hugely exciting. It’s our view at Suffolk Mind, with the stresses and pressures we all face in our day to day lives, that there is a need for everybody to understand more about how to protect mental health and the experiences of people living with mental ill health. Gecko’s incredible work, and the international renown they have garnered, provide a powerful medium for achieving that. Working with Gecko’s Artistic Director Amit Lahav and the Gecko ensemble to develop a programme of activities that addresses the issues raised in Institute demonstrates to us, once again, that understanding mental health is an essential part of our shared human experience. Ezra Hewing is Head of Mental Health Education at Suffolk Mind. His background includes: training mental health professionals, counsellors and psychotherapists; designing and managing community mental health services; developing cultural specific mental health interventions, including The Qur’an & Emotional Health: An Introduction; and providing workplace wellbeing consultancy and training to multinational businesses, the third sector and local and national government. He has collaborated with Gecko in the creation of this programme of activity.


We know when our physical needs for food, drink and sleep have to be met, because we feel hunger, thirst or tiredness. However, most of us find it harder to tell when our emotional needs have to be met.

Our emotional needs include: Security – to feel safe where we live, work or study. When we feel safe, we think clearly and respond to events sensibly whilst coping with change. When we feel unsafe we can become very stressed and find it difficult to think clearly about meeting other needs. Control - to feel that we have some say over our lives and personal choices. A healthy way to meet the need for control is to take personal responsibility for what we can influence, whilst accepting that there are some things we cannot control. Attention - like physical nutrition, too much and too little is bad for us. As we grow, we learn how to share attention – to give and to receive it. By sharing positive attention, people, families and communities grow and become healthier. Emotional Connection - which means having a relationship where we are accepted by another person in a way that lets us be ourselves. Community - feeling that we are connected to both other people and our wider society is vital for emotional health and wellbeing. We are social beings and need to belong to groups in which we are valued. Respect - which is connected to the need for community, because to be valued by others – friends, colleagues, peers and the wider world – helps us to understand our role within the community.

Privacy - or having enough space and time to reflect and learn from life experiences. Achievement - met by learning new skills and becoming competent in our work, hobbies and relationships. Learning new skills is the cure for both low and high selfesteem. Meaning and Purpose - this allows us to cope with suffering and keep going when life becomes difficult and stressful. We meet the need for meaning and purpose by being stretched mentally and physically in one or more of three ways: • Learning new mental or physical skills such as studying a language, an academic subject, obtaining a profession, or practising a sport or a craft; • Helping others through commitment to raising a family, working in a team, running a business or volunteering; and • Having a sense that we are connected to something larger than ourselves, which we have a duty to serve. This might be met through commitment to a religious, political or social cause, but for some people it may take the form of a philosophical or spiritual quest for scientific or experiential truth.

Do you feel secure in all major areas of your life (such as your home, work, local environment)?

 Do you feel you receive enough attention?

 Do you think you give other people enough attention?

 Do you feel part of the wider community?


MEETING EMOTIONAL NEEDS When thinking about mental health it may be helpful to look at how well your emotional needs are met at this moment in your life. Considering the following questions can help you to identify which emotional needs might be better addressed (1 means not at all, 5 means very much). Low scores are likely to be causes of any current stress in your life. By identifying needs that could be better met, you can use these questions to help you think constructively about reducing stresses that affect your emotional health.

Can you obtain privacy when you need to?

 Do you have at least one relationship in your life where you feel accepted for who you are by at least one person (this could be a close friend)?

 Do you feel an emotional connection to others?

 Do you feel that people give you respect for your contributions at work or at home?

 Are you achieving things and feeling competent in at least one major area of your life?

 Are you mentally and/or physically stretched in ways that give you a sense of meaning and purpose?



While women are more likely than men to experience common mental health problems like anxiety or depression, men are three times more likely to attempt suicide. Statistics from the Office for National Statistics show that suicide is the leading cause of death amongst men aged twenty to thirty-four, and a leading cause of death for men aged thirty-five to forty-nine. Men are also less likely to seek help with their mental health, either from their GP or from mental health services. Why might this be? A common explanation is that men are reluctant to talk about mental health issues for fear of being seen as weak or ‘unmanly’. It is thought that stereotypes telling men that society expects them to ‘man up’ and get on with life when they are distressed prevent men from seeking help or telling people how they feel. Campaigns encouraging men to seek help with their mental health often try to challenge these stereotypes about

“Institute is a piece of physical and visual theatre capable of swallowing you whole.” ««««« Exeunt

masculinity, which are seen as a barrier to men accessing help for complicated feelings, stress, anxiety and depression. However, there may be more that we need to take into account when thinking about men’s mental health. There is evidence that men and women’s brains are ‘wired’ to cope with stress differently. In general, women may deal with stress socially - through expressing how they feel to friends and partners. A man’s natural approach to coping with strong feelings may be to try to ‘keep the brakes on’ intense emotion, while seeking a practical solution to the perceived cause. In other words men are wired to problem solve. Helping men with mental health issues might therefore be more effective if we take this into account. For men, ‘doing’ something about a problem and not just ‘talking’ about how they feel might be a more appealing way of seeking help with their mental health. Approaches that give men the opportunity to ‘do’ things can often be very successful. Examples include social enterprises like Men’s Sheds, where men can meet up with others and spend time in a workshop practicing wood-work and mechanical skills. Ecotherapy projects, like those run by local Mind associations, give men the opportunity to do gardening on allotments, get out in the fresh air, and talk over a cup of tea in the allotment shed when the weather is wet.


SIMON ANDERSON AND JULIE BROWNLIE It’s supposed to be the prime of life, when the hard slog of building a career, buying a home and raising a family starts to pay dividends. And yet it is actually the period of our lives when many of us are least happy: research suggests there is a so-called ‘u-curve’ in subjective wellbeing across the life course and that those in midlife are at the bottom of it. For most people, of course, this is just a phase. But for men, at least, midlife is also associated with high levels of death by suicide, suggesting that this ‘dip’ in wellbeing is something we need to take seriously. The middle years are undoubtedly challenging: among other things, we may have to start confronting our own mortality, the loss of our parents, declining physical prowess and the realisation that not all of our youthful ambitions remain achievable. But those have always been features of this life stage. What might be different about contemporary experiences of midlife, especially for men? The emotional landscape of Britain is changing, and navigating those changes isn’t always easy. In research we conducted, we found a widespread perception that emotions are now more freely discussed than in the past, and there are clear

differences in how the pre-war and postwar generations feel about discussing their emotions. But some men in particular find themselves caught between the repressive, ‘stiff upper lip’ attitudes of their parents and the emotional openness of their partners and children. Our work suggests we can think of these men as a ‘buffer generation’, knowing they should talk about their feelings but still finding it difficult to do so. British society has changed in other important ways, too. Traditional ‘male industries’ have declined, taking with them a source of solidarity and shared identity. And globalisation and the economic downturn that followed the financial crisis have further eroded job security. We know that the experience of long-term unemployment can affect the wellbeing of individuals and communities and, for men who are still used to thinking of themselves as primary breadwinners, it can be especially challenging. Alongside gendered expectations of how life should be, there are also generational ones. A sense of failure in the job market can be exacerbated for those born in the decades following the second world war by a feeling that they were supposed to be part of the ‘lucky generation’ – the ones who benefited most from the welfare state, free university education and secure employment – and a sense that their contemporaries have gone further or faster in their careers or lives more generally. The rise of solo living represents another important cultural shift. Whether through choice or not, the number of people living on their own has risen sharply in recent decades, and men are now more likely than women to do so - especially in middle age. Often, that is the result of relationship breakdown which, in some respects, can be more challenging for men than for women. Research has long shown that men tend to benefit more than women from marriage, so they also have more to lose when it ends. One of the reasons for that is that middleaged men in relationships tend to be highly dependent on their partners for

emotional support – far more so than women of the same age. We found that women tend to maintain close same-sex friendships across their lives, while samesex friendships drop away for men over 30. So when relationships break down in midlife, men face the loss of their primary emotional relationship, and are often without other strong social connections to fall back on. Coupled with a reluctance to acknowledge difficulties in their emotional lives or to seek help and support, that isolation can have especially damaging consequences for mental health. But it would be a mistake to think that middle aged men just need to be encouraged to talk more about their feelings. Our research found plenty of examples of ways in which men (and women) can be there for one another in emotionally significant ways without always diving straight into deep and meaningful conversations. Sometimes it is the ‘being alongside’ that makes such interactions ultimately possible, but sometimes it is the wholly unspoken – the small act of kindness or gesture of companionship or solidarity – that signals to us most effectively that someone else cares. For men in midlife in particular, we need to be alert to moments of potential vulnerability – especially around employment, relationship breakdown and social isolation – and to find ways of responding that work with the grain of their preferences, beliefs and experiences. By doing that, we will help to ensure that many more are able to ‘keep on the road’ through the challenges of the middle years. Simon Anderson is an independent social research consultant and Julie Brownlie is a sociologist at Edinburgh University. They have conducted several major research projects together, including a study of views and experiences of emotional support in the UK (funded by the Economic and Social Research Council), and a recent exploration of acts and relationships of ‘ordinary kindness’ (funded by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation).

“Institute offers up sometimes comic, sometimes beautiful imagery… A visceral, physical, intriguing treat.” The British Theatre Guide

FINDING OUT MORE‌ If you wish to find out more about the work Mind does to support mental health, both nationally and in your local are. You can visit the following websites or get in touch direct.

Mind Call 0300 123 3393 or text 86463

Suffolk Mind Call 0300 111 6000 or email Please find more information enclosed on support networks available in your local area.

THANK YOU With thanks to the Wellcome Trust, New Wolsey Theatre in Ipswich and DanceEast, local Mind organisations, local professionals who have taken part in the panel discussions and the tour venues for their support in realising this project. @GeckoTheatre



Gecko, New Wolsey Studio, St George’s Street Ipswich, Suffolk, IP1 3NF Call 01473 295934 or email Company no. 524355 VAT no. 933480325

Gecko is supported by Arts Council England and Ipswich Borough Council. Institute is a Gecko Production co-commissioned by Derby Theatre, Warwick Arts Centre and New Wolsey Theatre Ipswich. In association with DanceEast and Northern Stage. Ancillary programme funded by a Wellcome People Award.

Booklet design and front cover image by Farrows Creative. Production images by Richard Haughton.

Profile for Gecko

Gecko - Institute Programme 2016  

Gecko - Institute Programme 2016