Review: A Little Space, Mumford Theatre

A Little Space is a chilling collaboration from Gecko and Mind the Gap which drifts between the real and the supernatural, exploring loneliness and isolation. From addiction to literal monsters under the floorboards, A Little Space shows us that there are any number of things that can make one feel alone, even in a space that is meant to be safe and secure. These ‘spaces’ are beautifully visualised through the use of three-dimensional LED boxes which form the thread of the piece, the connections between the people in each of these tiny worlds and the experiences they share.

It must first be said that this is a truly gorgeous piece of theatre in terms of design. Rhys Jarman’s industrial set, comprised of filament lightbulbs attached to metal piping, the gut-twisting swells of sound and the contrast between stark, exposing lighting and shifting haze behind it created an aura of threat that settles over the entire piece. The artistic concepts of the production team were innovative, expressive, cohesive and honestly just downright impressive; so much so that I frequently found myself gasping in wonder as another secret of the set was revealed. 

The pervasive rumbling of the soundscape, designed by Mark Melville and the strains of original music from Dave Price that punctuated it provided the perfect backdrop to the meticulously choreographed movement, the two so perfectly conjoined that it began to feel as though one was dependent upon the other. 

In fact, the design elements were such a huge factor of the aesthetic of the piece, it felt that the role of the actors themselves had almost been overlooked. Movement pieces combined with crescendos and colour were evocative and fluid, however, when seen in isolation, they often appeared unpolished. The performers, while clearly talented in expressive movement, were frequently uncertain and uncoordinated in their interactions leading to a jerky awkward style that was out of place and made me wonder if they had forgotten their steps. 

Additionally, the actors insisted on adding dialogue to scenes that clearly had no planned speech thanks to the ever-present composition, which simply served to distance me from the emotion of the moment by means of an expositional comment. Perhaps this is an active directorial decision but to me it simply felt like I was being jerked out of the reflective reverie I was otherwise so invited to lose myself in. 

Perhaps these problems can be put down exclusively to “start-of-tour” jitters as this is only their second performance but it was frustrating to have such a well-executed design concept be paired with underwhelming physical realisation. 

All in all, A Little Space is a fantastically designed play that is creative and innovative. However, it does still give the impression that the creators and devising performers have encountered a conflict in their interpretation of the chosen genre. It would seem they are trying to bridge the creative gap between the technical and physical aspects of the production by moving too much towards straight theatre instead of investing in the experimental style that A Little Space could and should so completely embrace.

A Little Space is touring the UK until May 16th with performances in Canterbury, Hove, Manchester, Derby, Oxford, Leeds, Ipswich, Exeter and London. For more information and tickets, see the Gecko website.