BAC (Battersea Arts Centre), London SW11
Opened 10 July, 2003

Boy meets girl; boy, tongue-tied, says nothing; girl passes by; boy grows wistful. In as much as Taylor's Dummies has a story at all, that's it. It's the visual and physical inventiveness of new company Gecko that makes such a gloriously vibrant 50-minute piece out of so slight a narrative premise.

Protagonist Taylor is represented by three performers, a couple of more or less life-size dummies and a baby doll or two, in various permutations; of the few words uttered on stage, most are expletives coming from one of the dolls. As Taylor veers between memories of an unhappy childhood and pipe-dreams of what might be, Amit Lahav, Al Nedjari and Joseph Traynor bounce off each other and off the walls of BAC's temporarily reconfigured main theatre. They even appear to rewrite the laws of three-dimensional physics. At one point, all three Taylors are sitting prosaically at separate nightclub tables... except that two are conventionally on the floor, but the third juts out at right angles halfway up the back wall. The woman's leg appears seductively up through the middle of one table; Taylor dives in after it. Earlier, one Taylor is seduced by an invisible woman, as we watch a pair of high-heeled shoes and a mannequin's hand being manipulated by the other two players.

First seen last year in one of BAC's smaller studios, the show now makes full use of the larger space. The woman Taylor yearns after is unattainable... physically so: aerialist Corinne Pierre spends most of the show in flying harnesses. When the men are similarly roped up, it's to show their limitations: they can only move so far towards her before being pulled back to earth or before the elastic contracts again. But none of this symbolism is allowed to grow heavy for an instant: the company's playful cleverness keeps things moving from scene to scene at top speed, occasionally accompanied by David Price's frenzied percussion. After all this physical and spatial exuberance, the final coup is brilliantly simple: a blackout curtain falls to let us see Taylor and the woman in a "real world" scene outside one of the building's windows. We will hear more of Gecko, and we should look forward to it.

Written for the Financial Times.

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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