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Invisible Treasure: A play with no cast

Invisible Treasure
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Invisible Treasure is an immersive show without a cast. Jo Caird talks to its creator Rachel Briscoe…

“It’s weird at the moment because normally I’d be in rehearsals and tearing my hair out. And I’m not,” says Rachel Briscoe of Fanshen. It’s early October and the show Briscoe is not rehearsing, Invisible Treasure, is due to open at Ovalhouse in London at the end of the month.

The reason she’s not rehearsing is that Invisible Treasure is an immersive theatre experience with no actors. Briscoe wanted to explore the way we engage – or rather fail to engage – with the “invisible systems” that govern us – the internet, financial markets, access to electricity. Fanshen has made interactive work before, but this would be different: “If we’re talking about invisible systems then that had to be reflected in the form.”

So no actors. Just a system of sensors, and sound and projection cues to drive an audience round a space and make them think about their responses to power.

Briscoe actually worked with actors to devise the show, back in June, but since then it’s just been the director, her design and stage management teams, and Hellicar and Lewis, a company that builds digital systems for creative projects.

“They went away and wrote the code and then we set up a mini version of the space in their studio,” explains Briscoe. So the only preparation necessary at this point is a week of tech in which to test the technology in situ.

“It’s going to be pretty much like a normal tech, apart from the bits where the cues are going to be dependent on sensing large amounts of people. We’ll just have to get a bunch of people in from the theatre to run around the room.”

Effective stage management is key in any theatre production, of course, but the ante is considerably raised in the case of a show that’s essentially just cues. Production manager Sam Clear is the one who will keep the show moving, stopping audiences becoming “caught in one space for eternity” in the event of system glitches. He’ll also be manually cueing certain moments – the technology isn’t quite advanced enough (within the show’s budget) to do everything Briscoe wanted automatically. She’s under no illusion as to just how important Clear has been in the process.

“I don’t think that stage managers and production managers often get the credit that they deserve,” says Briscoe. “This project absolutely wouldn’t have happened if it hadn’t been for [Sam].”

Invisible Treasure opened at London’s Ovalhouse on October 27 and runs until November 14

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