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Rambert/Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui and 59 Productions - Invisible Cities - Manchester - July 2019

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Invisible Cities is a site-specific event, presented as part of this year's Manchester International Festival.  It is a co-production between 50 Productions and Rambert.


It sounded intriguing so a couple of friends and I went last night (Friday 12th).


The performance is held in a near derelict, disused rail depot adjacent to Manchester's Piccadilly Station, which turned out to be very atmospheric.  In the performance space, the seating is blocked in the four corners designated as north, south, east and west.  As we entered our designated section we were hemmed in by two white curtains at right angles displaying a map of Kublai Khan's empire.  We could not see the audiences at the other compass points.


The work is loosely based on the book Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino.  To give the work a structure there is a dialogue between Marco Polo and Kublai Khan.  Marco Polo is not being allowed to see his father and uncle and Kublai Khan is promising him that he will as long as he goes on various explorations on his behalf and comes back and tells of what he has seen.


There are 2 actors playing the parts of Khan and Polo (and very well I might add).  The Rambert dancers are guards, explorers, camels and more.  Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui has choreographed movement rather than dance although there are some lovely, fluid danced sections.


Projections are used on the floor and walls to spectacular effect to show the palace and other places, particularly on the floor.  There is also a stepped structure that can be moved around.  Act 2 has the most incredible canal in the middle of the performance space.  In some scenes the dancers are on short stilts and in one amazing section they become incredibly convincing camels ridden by nomads.  The section with the gondola on the canal is quite stunning.  Towards the end modern day intrudes with an airport and modern rubbish - a rude reminder of the world we currently live in.


The work starts when the curtains are drawn back.  We are dimly away of the audience in the other compass points of seating.  The curtains are drawn over to allow for the set changes and during those changes projections of each voyage made by Marco Polo are shown.


It is incredibly atmospheric and a sensory experience.  I just got really drawn into it and the time seemed to fly by (the performance was 2hrs 20 minutes including an interval).


I've added the seating plan to give you an idea of the compass point seating and a photograph of the map on initial display.


So a very different, hugely satisfying evening.  I'm so glad I was there.



Screenshot 2019-07-13 at 23.45.43.png


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