Invisible Show II

Sun 21st August – Tue 27th September 2011

reviews

Kate Abnett

at 11:22 on 22nd Aug 2011

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At this year’s Latitude Festival, I came across a big group of people in headphones, all staring into the same faraway spot, wearing the same facial expression. While the part of my brain that worries about brainwashing went mental, I needn’t have worried.

The crowd was in fact a theatre audience, watching The Invisible Show, which comes to Edinburgh this year for the first time. The concept is ingenious – audience members wear wireless headphones and stand in a crowd where the performers themselves are acting. You can watch the action, if you find where the actors are, or treat it as a radio play and find a spot to sit, stand or lie back and listen.

The first scene is about a couple about to go see The Invisible Show, and this is used to tell the audience what the show is. This worked well as a clever introduction, and felt as real, or as “drenched in humanity” as the characters hoped the show would be.

Many of the scenes played off their setting –characters talked about the festival and one couple claimed to have had sex six times that afternoon, which, frankly, doesn’t fit into the average working day. Others, however, collided with the festival atmosphere in an unconvincing way. One scene sees a woman recently diagnosed with a terminal illness arranging future care for her children – a well written scene, performed beautifully, but such a traumatic arrangement being made in the bustling setting of the Pleasance Courtyard over the phone was one of the show’s less believable attempts to jar the setting and action to create drama.

Two of the scenes used phone calls, which played on the audience’s ability to hear the secret life of the crowd, by taking one side of the conversation away. The want to hear the voice at the other end cleverly exposes the voyeur in all of us.

One of the best scenes was an exchange between two young festival goers, who after meeting six hours ago, were gripped by summer love. Reminiscent of BBC series Him and Her, this took the beauty of young love and bashed it around a bit, resulting in a realistically charming modern romance.

Perhaps worth noting is that unless the audience has read up on the show first, the fact that the scenes are not connected could be confusing – the actors play different characters in each scene, and i heard one headphone-wearer telling his friend, “I thought he was with her Mum?!”.

Most of the scenes fit into their unusual performance space well, and the range of characters is a thought provoking depiction of the real life characters that surround us every day.

The cast were good, and it was really interesting to see ‘theatre’ without a stage – gestures and voices became much smaller, and an intimate naturalism emerged. The tranquil, ethereal soundtrack served its purpose to block out background noise, but also really assisted in making the audience feel like a fly on the wall.

The script is never highly exciting, and sometimes naturalism takes hold too much and becomes boring. Also, perhaps in order to exploit the idea that we walk past dramatic situations every day without noticing, much of the material was unnecessarily explicit. The best thing about this show is its novel medium, which really does reinvent the experience of an audience. Still in its early days, I hope future invisible shows can establish the tone needed to create more drama without losing the realism the concept relies upon. The experience is nonetheless fun and if you want to find out the perks of being a wallflower, be sure to catch this rare chance.

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