Terrific physicality but perplexing: The Wedding by Gecko

Barbican Theatre, London
June 7, 2022

Although a UK-based company, the style of Gecko’s Theatre’s production The Wedding sits firmly in the tradition of European mime, Theatre of the Absurd and Theatre of Cruelty. Although snatches of individual languages can be perceived, the performers mostly vocalise in an incoherent babble – or shout angrily.

The ensemble are terrific as they lead us into their dystopian world where everyone it seems is a bride, wedded to society. The physicality is superb and there is some impressive imagery.

We first hear a cacophony of voices off. Performers enter, initially via a tubular chute, while clutching a teddy bear. Symbolising the end of childhood, perhaps? They then encounter some kind of facilitator. They have no mutually comprehensive language (multiple spoken languages are used throughout the show) but she garbs them all in wedding dresses, makes them down a drink and throws them into the melée of a drunken wedding party.

We see various versions and various ‘brides’ (some men) executing folk dances and marriage traditions and then indulging in stomping dances to an accompaniment of thumping pop music.

After rather a lot of this, everyone appears with tiny suitcases. Are they going on honeymoon? Lighted desks appear that seem to be check-in desks which, inexplicably, one of the women crawls through. Sometimes we see the performers at the top of a curtained arch behind which confetti rains down like snow. 

Narratives and worlds shift. It is quite confusing. Some of the performers seem to be tramps, although the intention is immigrants, who rather cleverly appear ‘through’ another but much larger suitcase. They babble and argue. One woman seems distressed. Maybe it’s a tribute to Waiting for Godot.

This scene over, we are back to the wedding theme with a couple crammed into a box-like space with the facilitator discussing divorce. After that, there seems to be some sort of reconciliation, ending with everyone sitting in chairs facing the audience, lamps attached to each seat as they chant, clap and stomp.

For all the commitment and full-on playing by the ensemble, at 70 minutes, it starts to feel like long watch. Some people in the audience clearly found it very funny in places but a significant amount could be pruned without changing any of the narrative, such as it is. I came away not only perplexed but rather bored, none the wiser about what they were trying to say about marriage, if anything, and mostly disengaged. The Wedding is very well done but it didn’t deliver anything to which I could relate.

The Wedding is at the Barbican Theatre to June 11, 2022.