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Amit Lahav - Kin Interview

Award-winning and internationally acclaimed physical theatre company Gecko embark on a national tour of their brand new production Kin. The tour culminates in a run at the National Theatre in January 2024 – a landmark moment for this important company. Kin is inspired by the epic journey from Yemen to Palestine that Artistic Director Amit Lahav’s grandmother Leah and her family took to escape persecution. Ninety years later, her grandson reflects on the life- changing decision his family made to flee and build a better life. Featuring Gecko’s signature physical, visual, visceral and ambitious performance, this production presents a provocative story of desperation and compassion.

Ahead of the UK tour I spoke with Amit Lahav to discuss the production.

Photo by Mark Sepple

Kin is inspired by a journey your grandmother took to escape persecution – what made you want to bring her story to the stage?
The starting point for any creation I make is something deeply personal that is also profound on a societal level. The focus is therefore all of our migration stories - the migration stories that exist in every human being. This is actually the most interesting idea for me because it unites us all - fundamentally we are all the product of migration. I am a migrant from Israel, my father too, my grandmother is from Yemen and my great grandparents on my mothers side are from Poland. Before she passed away, I asked Leah, my grandmother about this journey across Yemen; why did they leave, how did they survive… Her memory of those days and months was very faded and this lead me to speaking to other Yemenite jews in the family and beyond who had knowledge of this migration story. 
Being such a personal tale to you and your family does that have extra meaning to you when it’s being developed?
It is a very personal story and I wanted to understand it as much as possible. Empathising with Leah and other members of the family on that journey was an important part of the process because it allowed me to also empathise more deeply with other members of the Gecko company who had their own complex and painful migration stories. Many of their stories also inhabit persecution and racism which became a central theme in the piece. Knowing and understanding my grandmothers story was an important step in the voyage towards empathic connection with everyone.
What research did you do when developing the piece?
While in Israel, as well as speaking to several family members about what they remembered of my grandmother’s journey, Ialso spoke to historians about the plight of Yemenite Jews leaving/escaping Yemen. then took a DNA test to see if that revealed anything about my migration lineage, but also specifically relating to Yemen. The results currently statequite broadly: I have a 31% match for ‘Arabian Peninsula.
I researched all of the personal migration stories within the performing company, as well as having conversations with hundreds of individuals who’ve taken part in Gecko workshops and residencies, as well as conducting interviewsand reading endlessly about people’s migration stories over the last four years. A key interview I conducted was with Frank Bright who is a holocaust survivor, and part of his recorded interview features in the show.
I studied many hours of holocaust testimonies online and read 15 books on the holocaust. I could go on and on!

Photo by Mark Sepple

How does Kin fit in with the ethos of Gecko?
Gecko’s ethos is about human connection and empathy. Empowering individuals, giving artists a voice to express themselves, to share, listen and grow. A Gecko show is a vehicle for deeper understanding and connection - in a way it’s a starting point. Kin is a starting point for us to have many years of conversations and connections with people all over the world. Kin is about empathy, empathy for everyone. 
As well as touring, the show will play at the National Theatre in January 2024 – that must feel pretty special?
One of the most special things about the National run is that Rufus Norris knew very little about Kin; what the theatrical world would be or how it would look and feel but on the strength of our previous shows, and the ideas around migration, racism and empathy, he commissioned the show and decided to bring the company to the Lyttleton stage. This is a mark of what we have achieved over 20 years; a Gecko style and identity, a quality certainty, thrilling theatrical worlds, creativity and a hungry young audience.

What would you want an audience member to take away from seeing Kin?
Empathy for everyone, we are all migrants.

Can you describe Kin in 3 words?
Open-hearted visual explosion

Kin tours opening at Storyhouse Chester (22-23 September), CAST Doncaster (28-29 September), Oxford Playhouse (4-5 October), Nottingham Playhouse (11-14 October), Brighton Dome (1-4 November) and Lyttelton Theatre, National Theatre (12-27 January 2024). Visit for tickets.

Photo by Mark Sepple

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