It’s been a long time coming but the corn Exchange at the Brighton Dome complex could not have had a better piece of theatre to re-open it as a live performance venue. The space is spectacular and at last has the real sense of being a theatre rather than an historic building turned over to “art events”. From the moment you step inside from the newly formed New Road entrance there is the sense that you are walking into a contemporary arts venue, and once inside the large performance arena, with at last comfortable seating, that dare I say it, feels stable, you cannot fail to be impressed. It’s been a long time coming, what with disappearing contractors and then COVID, but wow, it has been worth the wait.

Gecko as a physical theatre company have an amazing reputation but as a launch vehicle expectations were high, the venue needed something massive for the re-opening and massive is what we got.

Behind Kin is creative director Amit Lahav, and it is a story so poignant at the this point in modern history that it could not fail to move. It is the story of displacement, conflict, racism, forced migration and of course kinship. It is breathlessly performed by a company of exceptional talents who bring the story and the stage to life with the quick-fire creation of scenes, journeys and tableaux. By saying quick-fire I do not mean that the pace was rapid throughout, there were moments of gentleness and of calm but the transitions between every scene were seamless.

Visually this was a feast and much of that feast was delivered by the most exquisite lighting design that in 60 plus years of going to all kinds of live theatre and performance I have never before experienced. This was lighting from a designer who is clearly not afraid of the dark! Lighting designer Chris Swain is simply brilliant. Designer Rhys Jarman pulls out that dark simple but simply perfect scenarios. Mark Melville’s soundscape is driven, loud and disquieting – and for all the right reasons, and working with composer Dave Price the whole is truly impressive.

The performers are a truly international team, each speaking in their native tongue but strangely that never seems to be irritating or even wrong, and so powerful is Lahav’s direction and intent that it actually adds to the story of displacement and struggle, and at one hour and 20 minutes the piece is never indulgent, it is the right length, the length it needs to be.

So much live performance these days seems to hang on technical wizardry, special effects and computer magic. Not here, okay I guess that the amazing and complex lighting plot might well require computer science, but at the end of the day this is a brilliant team of creatives working with light, sound, a few props and a dedicated cast of multi-talented performers.

The Corn Exchange is back and this promises a very exciting future!

Andrew Kay

The Corn Exchange

4 November


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