Reflective Theatre

Feature in Issue 5-4 | Winter 1993

One must question sometimes what it is that makes people do what they do. The internal drive that makes them continue against the odds. The desire to strive onwards and upwards even though everything seems an unassailable mountain.

So, imagine the scene: Gari Jones, of Reflective Theatre, in Edinburgh this summer. Appearing in These Colours Don’t Run and Fist of the Dragonfly, both by Gary Drabwell, whilst trying to produce his own production of Utopian that was about to join the Festival. In the first week, Gari lost his voice. In the second week he suffered concussion and dizzy spells following a damaging headbutt. Once the swelling of his black eye had gone down he broke his nose during one of the more active scenes in Fist of the Dragonfly. By the end of the play blood was flowing so freely that he found himself standing in a puddle of it. The final bows were made to an audience wowing at the realistic stage effects! This was followed by an all-night tech on Utopian whilst under the influence of pain killing drugs, meaning that the lighting for the show was somewhat weird.

Gari formed Reflective Theatre in March 1991, while still a student at the Central School of Speech and Drama. The aim was to produce his new play Driven to Drop. It played to sell-out audiences at The Etcetera Theatre. By his next production, a decidedly physical style was beginning to develop. He added music and was soon looking at performing in clubs and obscure venues so as not to be restricted in any way by time, space, etc.

He is essentially a one-man company, still only twenty-two years old and totally without funding from arts or business sponsorship. The name came from the idea of mirrors and seeing oneself in them and on stage. Hence the company slogan: Take a look at yourself. This year, Gari has been very busy. Reflective toured When Did You Do That?, which led to talks with numerous bands about collaboration towards live music with the live action of the play. This is an area he is really interested in, as his vision is a new theatre for a new generation. His issues are contemporary and so must be the music. When he constructed and directed Utopian, he cast actors who had had no formal training in mime and physical theatre. This was to create a raw feeling, to go with the raw music and the raw grunge look of the show. Now well-received everywhere it has been performed, it involved ‘shouting’ the poetry of D.H. Lawrence alongside the constant contemporary music. It has been termed ‘aural barrage’. The content of Utopian meant it reached young audiences in Edinburgh that seldom visit the theatre.

To Gari, his plays are more like gigs. The term ‘theatre’ is, for him, to be forgotten. His gigs are pop concerts without the ‘pop’, but with the story and the play. He never wants to compromise, but to take risks in style as well as content.

Currently working on an as yet untitled production with the Enfield Youth Theatre, following his success with Alive at the start of the year, and his new play Blind in the Left Eye?, about the rise of the fascist and Nazi movements, he is also watching his company tour France and Germany with Utopian.

So, Gari Jones, with his Reflective Theatre, has survived this far and he hopes he will continue to do so: writing, performing, directing and producing. Oh – and, of course, looking for that elusive funding...

Referenced Artists

This article in the magazine

Issue 5-4
p. 18