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 The Theatreguide.London Review

Lyttelton Theatre January 2024

On a semi-darkened stage at the National Theatre, the dance/movement company Gecko conjure up the difficult troubled journey of two migrant families, a smartly dressed collection of border guards and a young boy being drawn to what seems like the exciting life of the guards.

The show opens with a happy, wild drinking party of the guards, each holding onto a bottle of beer as they are choreographed into dances to the joyful string music reminiscent of early twentieth-century Eastern Europe.

Back on the job, they scrutinise the papers of refugees carrying suitcases. It's a role they will play throughout the performance, often with a cruel pleasure, punching travellers and on a couple of occasions spitting into a bag of food offered to them by a refugee.

A young woman alone contorts her body in sorrow at her separation from family. As two large puppets approach her, we hear her mother in voice-over saying she doesnít think she will make it.

In a brief moment of hope, reunited with her family, they dance together in celebration. But the moment is slightly undercut by the yellow stripe the guards have painted on their backs.

Another family group wearing woollen hats we might associate with Pakistan also have mixed fortunes. Rejected at a crossing they are encouraged to wear a white tie and smear their faces white to get themselves across the border. One of them canít bring himself to erase his identity and is forcibly disappeared.

People in neat blue suits sporting blonde hair are politely welcomed with no problems whatsoever.

The young lad looking bored with a book his parents try to get him to read is thrilled by the rhythms of the guard's drum beat and is soon joining them, not only as a guard but also in their brutal treatment of refugees.

As if tuning into the current tragic consequences of the UKís cruel asylum policy, the cast conclude the performance with an ensemble dance dressed in orange life jackets which we know have been insufficient even this week to save the lives of some of those desperately trying to cross the Channel.

These brief broad brush-stroke scenes from a refugee crisis grab the audienceís attention with their dance and movement sympathy for the victims of cruel privileged guards.

The show never lingers long with a particular story or character. Like the news reports of deaths in the Mediterranean or Channel, these remain anonymous.

Keith McKenna

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