Review: The Wedding @ HOME, Manchester

We are all married, bound by a contract. But what are the terms of this relationship and can we talk about divorce?

Such is the question posed by artistic director of Gecko Amit Lahav in The Wedding – a poetic performance that explores one of life’s most conventional rituals in the least conventional way.

The show – now playing at HOME, Manchester – comes to life with grown adults shooting out of a tunnel on to a pile of toys, which might have you wondering if you’ve come to the right theatre.

After all, what sort of wedding starts with a half-naked man-child clutching a teddy bear and dancing to Russian folk music?

Spoiler alert: not a Russian one.

The opening –  a bizarre yet clear reference to childhood –  is followed by an angry woman with a clipboard handing out bridal dresses to both men and women, indicating that a much deeper meaning is at work here than ceremonial matrimony.

UNIQUE: The show is unconventional from the get-go

Portraying us all as brides – or rather forced brides – The Wedding invites audience members to explore marriage in the broadest sense

Ultimately, that it is the social contract we have with the state.

“To me it’s a metaphor,” says Lahav, artistic director and founder of Gecko.

He adds: “The contract with the state is fundamentally very similar [to marriage] in that it’s an offer of protection, safety and health in return for your taxes and loyalty.

“In some warped version of reality we’re all brides”.

On the surface, Lahav’s description of our contract with the state sounds like a pretty reasonable one.

After all, unlike in other parts of the world the UK does return on its promise. We do receive protection, safety and democratic freedom in return for taxes and loyalty.

This makes his analogy between a forced marriage and the state initially hard to get behind. 

Acknowledging this, Lahav tells MM: “It’s a challenge to people who feel safe, to reflect on people who aren’t safe and to ask yourself: ‘where do I sit on that spectrum?’.”

At that, The Wedding certainly succeeds.

LAYERS: The Wedding carries many deep messages

Fluid, intimate movements are invaded by harsh spotlight, whilst lively, joyous scenes are interrupted by rigid movements and foreboding music indicating anger and frustration, signifying a lack of control.

Lahav adds: “The anger for me comes from the sort of domination which is almost hidden. 

“We’re in a dangerous time where there’s a veneer of freedom but actually we’re incredibly controlled.”

Many scenes – including one in which an American appears to force a Muslim into wearing a militant uniform – certainly make you question the quiet forces of power at work in our society, from capitalism and state surveillance to the influence of the media and border control.

Lahav says: “I’m always trying to be sensitive as an artist to what’s happening in the world and to what’s happening around me. It’s my job to be reflective about that.

“It comes about by witnessing and feeling the state that we’re in.

“The terms of our marriage are being moved about. If you look at surveillance, TTIP reduces our rights and there is talk of changing the human rights charter.

“These are fundamental terms in our agreement – that’s where the idea comes from.”

Despite its abstract nature, The Wedding manages to execute this well whilst leaving much of the performance open to interpretation. 

This delicate balance between an obvious narrative and poetic metaphor is what makes the show so captivating and interesting throughout the 80 minute-long performance.

HOME: The production is in town until Saturday

Lahav explains: “If everyone came out of the theatre and had the exact same interpretation I would have failed. I would have nailed it down too heavily.

“I think the number one thing for me is that people have gone on an individual journey that is pertinent to them. I want somebody to feel that the thing has spoken to them.

“The whole thing is poetry. Nothing is literal and yet it’s all completely human and recognisable and that’s why it takes three years.”

Indeed, it is purely coincidental that The Wedding debuted not long after Theresa May began her EU divorce proceedings as Lahav started making the show about a year and a half before Brexit came about.

The director says: “It’s a three-year process so it’s incredibly detailed, organic, messy, structured, disorganised organised, ripped apart and put back together!

“It’s a difficult thing to break down simply. It’s an endlessly rolling process where something emerges and I usually hate it!”

It’s hard to believe anyone could hate The Wedding, whether fans of physical theatre or not.

The combination of spellbinding music, mesmerising dance moves and narratives in languages from all over the world, make it a truly entertaining and thought-provoking experience, no matter what message you take from it.

*The Wedding is playing at HOME until Saturday, September 16. You can buy tickets HERE.

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