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Interview with Amit Lahav, Artistic Director of Gecko: “The role of an artist is to challenge the status quo.”

It seems that we are getting better at being honest with each other about our own frailties.

Institute is driven by Geckoʼs desire to explore complexities in human nature; our impulse to care and our complete reliance on one another. We are entering a time in which we are potentially more fractured and disconnected than ever before – when the time comes, will anyone really care? But a Gecko world is never as it first appears…

Gecko have teamed up with mental health charity Suffolk Mind to launch a series of  workshops & participatory opportunities.
I had a phone chat with company director and all round theatrical wizard Amit Lahav recently.
Here is what we discussed:

Amit Lahav

Amit Lahav

Hi Amit! Congratulations on Live from Television Centre – the collaboration with Battersea Arts Centre and the BBC – It really highlighted the values of British independent theatre. You’ve had quite a year haven’t you.>
I couldn’t be happier – it was outrageously ambitious and we couldn’t have pushed harder. We explored the extraordinary Gecko language inside TV and film, we went 1,000% with BAC who produced it and went in all guns blazing. It was something that everyone believed in. I think with the BBC wanted us to make something incredibly theatrical – I am genuinely proud and I had to think as a film maker, which was incredibly challenging.

There is a lot of debate around how live screenings of shows have changed theatre; for better or worse. They are increasingly popular with audiences. What do you think their impact on live arts are? 
It’s incredibly important to keep engagement live. We are in a dangerous situation of becoming disconnected in a society that has a hidden loneliness. Don’t get me wrong, there is an enormous benefit having work seen by larger audiences, but the present connection with audiences is something I wouldn’t want to move away from.

Institute is a remarkable production exploring troubled men. 
At the heart of Institute is the question to do with masculinity and culture, in these times people are trying to survive more than it seems. It’s subterranean, on a multitude of levels, the experiences men have on an internal and external level.

Does it feels like more is required of audiences than just talking about the ‘issues’ and how have people responded to the show out on tour?
We have so frequently come across people who have been affected by Institute, who at the end of the production have been unable to move from their seats. They want to talk to us, to someone. Out on tour there is someone from the charity Suffolk Mind as well as a panel discussion with service providers. Uniquely, as well there is someone local to the venues who have proximity to that venue and have used those resources available to them.

Political correctness and art don’t *usually* mix well. Institute feels like a genuinely political piece of theatre, would you agree? 
The role of an artist is to challenge the status quo. All Gecko shows are political. In some way being the bearer of truth, Gecko is an important commodity and in these times even more critical.

What would you say have been the most rewarding moments of getting Institute in front of audiences? 
I think that what I have been learning about mental health has been so extraordinary because it’s shone a mirror about where Institute came from within me, there is something very powerful in that. At one end on the spectrum there is wellness and the other there is not. You can be on that continuum somewhere and that stress can be the crossover. The fragility of being a human being can take you by surprise. You might know someone who is suffering. It’s important to reiterate that there is help out there and it’s good to talk about these things.”
Cheers! 

Nuffield / Southampton / www.nuffieldtheatre.co.uk

Performances2 – 5 November at 7.30pm / tickets

Ancillary programme2 November at 9pm – post show panel discussion (free with show ticket)

4 November at 2pm – 5pm – workshop (free with show ticket, registration information will be available on the venue website)

Playhouse / Liverpool / www.everymanplayhouse.com

Performances16 – 19 November at 7.30pm (except for: 5.30pm on 17 November) / tickets

Ancillary programme17 November at 7pm – post show panel discussion (free with show ticket)

17 November at 12pm-3pm – workshop (free with show ticket, registration information will be available on the venue website)

Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015 – vlogs

Vlogs

  1.  Day 1 at Edinburgh Festival with journalist Mark Fisher (The Guardian)
  2. With Jake Orr ( A Younger Theatre)

3.  I caught up with Amit Lahav (Gecko Theatre Company) in a bar at Edinburgh Fringe Festival, who’s show Institute is playing The Pleasance.

4.  Edinburgh Fringe Festival Vlog featuring Kirsty Housely, Co-director of The Encounter (Complicite)

5.  Featuring Lyn Gardner

6.  I caught up with Charlie and Louis from Circus company Barely Methodical Troupe who are presenting Bromance at the Circus

7.  Chit chat with Associate Director of Proteus Theatre company at Ed Fringe.

8.  Rather randomly, I bumped into Britain’s Got Talent winner Susan Boyle at Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2015.