‘Missing’ review

Theatre, Experimental
3 out of 5 stars
 (© Robert Golden)
1/7
© Robert Golden
 (© Robert Golden)
2/7
© Robert Golden
 (© Robert Golden)
3/7
© Robert Golden
 (© Robert Golden)
4/7
© Robert Golden
 (© Robert Golden)
5/7
© Robert Golden
 (© Robert Golden)
6/7
© Robert Golden
 (© Robert Golden)
7/7
© Robert Golden

BAC’s Grand Hall reopens with the show that was running when the venue burned down three years ago

From a symbolic perspective, this is the perfect piece of programming for the big reopening of Battersea Arts Centre’s Grand Hall. The iconic venue was destroyed by fire three years ago, and the show that was running in it at the time was… ‘Missing’ by Gecko. Their set, props and many personal belongings were incinerated. But the kindness of friends, strangers and the theatre community allowed the physical theatre company to bounce back and take the show on a Mexican tour just a few weeks later.

And now here they are, in 2018, reopening the restored Grand Hall – after (on opening night only) a round of moving speeches and poems from the BAC great and good that are practically an evening’s entertainment in their own right.

In all honesty, I doubt ‘Missing’ is the show BAC would have picked to open its largely mouthwatering Phoenix Season if it hadn’t been for the previous history. It is an evocative slice of Lynchian dance-theatre, but it’s also a touch thin, and buckles a bit under the expectations of the evening.

Still, you won’t be distracted by opening-night pomp. ‘Missing’ is taut, dark and largely gorgeous, the small company conjuring a huge, shadowy world of jagged movements, disorienting noises and sudden rasps of light, much of it viewed in striking tableaux though tarnished window frames. 

In essence it follows two women in troubled relationships: one English, in a strained marriage with a German man; the other is Spanish and has an eerily lifelike puppet daughter with a Brit, who she rows with ferociously (albeit with little dialogue – the company is pointedly internationally accessible). How the women relate to each other slowly becomes apparent as their stories unspool in swirls of non-linear, troubled memory. It’s ravishing, and some of the vignettes – such as an excruciating scene between the English woman and German man – are genuinely brilliant. 

Ultimately, though, ‘Missing’ feels more stylish than substantial – an overture for the greater work to come this season.

By: Andrzej Lukowski

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