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Kin | National Theatre

Kin, by internationally acclaimed physical theatre company Gecko Theatre, is a poignant and haunting exploration of the complex themes of home, family, and migration. Under the creative direction of Amit Lahav, alongside his 10 devising performers, the production extends into the profound territory of racism, the relentless quest for belonging, and the harsh struggle for survival.


Blending movement, mime, music, and dance together, the devised nature of the production intertwines the personal migrant stories of Lahav and his performers, resulting in a visceral and visually striking experience. Gecko Theatre's signature elements, such as breath work, tension, and impulse contribute to the creation of an emotionally charged piece that makes the dramacompelling to watch.

The use of multiple native languages, spanning Hebrew, Mandarin, Cantonese, Malayalam, Norwegian, and Spanish, among others, adds a layer of complexity to the performance. This linguistic diversity enables predominantly English-speaking audiences to engage their imaginations, filling in the gaps for themselves and perhaps connecting their lived experiences with the drama as it unfolds. This perhaps also suggests a utopia where language ceases to be a barrier, allowing people to connect with each other physically and emotionally through alternative means.


Over the 80-minute duration, the audience witness the relentless and dehumanising experiences of the characters subjected to the scrutiny of merciless border guards inspecting documents and visas for those desperately wanting to enter their territory. Rejected applicants are thrown around and kicked, highlighting a stark contrast where individuals in suits, predominantly white, encounter no such challenges.

Elsewhere in the piece, a family grappling with acceptance at the border succumbs to the temptations of assimilation, symbolised by their actions of removing headwear, donning ties, and applying white paint to their faces. Repetitive choreographic movements are employed in these sections to underscore the perpetual setbacks experienced by migrants, which also mirrors the stark reality of migration issues and persistent xenophobia worldwide, suggesting the unfortunate perpetuity of these challenges. However, amidst the prevailing darkness, the portrayal of families experiencing separation and reunion, marked by anguish and rejoicing, offers a glimmer of hope.


The production's aesthetic brilliance is particularly noteworthy, with anguished scenes emerging dramatically from darkness. Chris Swain's masterful lighting design and Dave Price's evocative music work brilliantly in tandem, creating an immersive atmosphere that significantly enhances the overall impact of the performance.


While Kin excels in its gorgeous aesthetics and choreographic detail, the critique emerges in its struggle to deliver compelling and coherent dramatic arc. The exploration of profound themes seems to hover on the surface, lacking the necessary depth to fully tackle the hard hitting questions it tries to raise.


The performance culminates in a particularly poignant moment where performers take turns sharing their stories - where they are from and what home means to them. Against the backdrop of ongoing global political unrest, these narratives strike a powerful chord, underscoring their relevance and timeliness. While Kin successfully shines a spotlight on the struggles of migrants, urging audiences to listen and understand, it falls short of delving into the emotional depth of these complex issues. The heart of the show is in the right place, but it does not quite hit home.


Kin plays at the National Theatre until 27th January. For more information and tickets, follow the link here.


AD | gifted tickets in return for an honest review | photography by Mark Sepple


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