When I put out a request on Twitter for things to do in London during half term, we were invited to a production entitled ‘Invisible Treasure’ from fanSHEN playing at the Ovalhouse Theatre until November 14th. So, Grace,aged 8, and Emily, aged 10, and I went along on the morning of Thursday 29th October to see what it was all about.
As a theatre lover I thought I had seen most things but this was a whole different ballgame! Aimed at ages 7 years and up, the people behind Invisible Treasure say it ‘is an interactive digital playspace, an electrifying exploration of human relationships, power structures and individual agency, where your actions can change everything.’
There are no actors, no plot and no storyline in this off-the-wall theatre experience. When we arrived the ‘audience’ were shown into a room where we left our belongings and then we had to introduce ourselves to at least 2 people we had not met before. Grace and Emily stayed close and we said hello to Natalie and Max.
We were then shown into a rectangular white room which smelt of new carpet. The carpet itself was beige with some blue circles cut into it. There were what looked like screens on the walls around the room with one larger screen on the long wall facing you as you walked in. To our right, on the shorter wall, was a large white rabbit with blue, glowing eyes. It all felt a bit bizarre.
And that is how the experience continued really. All a bit bizarre. 27 of us were shut in this room and then the larger computer screen starting giving us elusive instructions. The first one was along the lines of arranging ourselves. This is when we started to interact with the rest of the people we were with. Normally, when you go to the theatre, you have nothing to do with the audience. You are there to watch the people on stage. Not so with this. There were a mixture of different age groups and, I have to admit, that I was a little bit proud of Grace and Emily. They started to pretty much take over at one point! Grace shouted ‘all the adults over there, all the kids over there!’ and they all listened. One woman came over to me and told me that my child would make prime minister one day!
Emily and Grace continued to have fun by reading the instructions on the screen and then guessing what we had to do. My favourite section was the dancing. We had different types of dance come up on screen; the twist, the conga, salsa and so on, and different types of music to match.
At the end, the screen started to show up error messages and none of us really knew whether it was all part of the experience or whether it was actually a mistake! There was a man in the room with us whom I did suspect was part of the creation and, when he started to help out with instructions, my suspicions were correct!
The whole thing took just over an hour and, as we left the room at the end, we exited into an area where people had been allowed to write comments on the walls. Something I found a little bit contrived so I didn’t really bother – and nor did the girls.
As we left, I shook hands with the ‘plant’ in the room. He explained to me that he was one of the creators and apologised for the error at the end. I have to admit that if he hadn’t of done this then it might have been better and left a little more of the mystery intact.
Grace and Emily really had a great time. They didn’t quite know what to make of the whole thing but were agreed on the fact that it was certainly a bit of fun.
It’s hard to review something that is tricky to explain without giving the whole thing away. I loved the fact that you were able to interact with people that you normally would not speak to. I have to be honest. I am left trying to decide whether it was a bit of escapism for an hour or a load of pretentious clap-trap. I think I will take the former!
Invisible Treasure by fanSHEN is suitable for 7 years old and upwards. It is showing at the Ovalhouse Theatre, London from now until November 14th at various times during the day. Tickets from £7.Please see the Ovalhouse website for full details.
Disclosure: Thank you to the organisers of this show for providing us with 3 tickets in return for this review. Please note that all words, images and opinions have been formed by the owner of this blog and have not been influenced in any way. Please do not reproduce any of the content or images on this post without prior agreement from Verily Victoria Vocalises.