“Phase 2 – link/erase”
Deposited in a futuristically sparely decorated room (designed by Cécile Trémolières) with people you don’t know, a freaky looking rabbit with glowing eyes for company and no immediate clue as to what is going happening, the opening moments of fanSHEN’s Invisible Treasure at the Ovalhouse are quite disorienting. But as a screen flickers into life, Joshua Pharo and Gillian Tan’s moody lighting starts to shift and short messages begin to appear, the name of the game becomes increasingly apparent. (Due to the nature of the show, I’ve tried to avoid spoilers below.)
For it is something of a game, a self-described “interactive digital playspace” in which the interactions of the group are key. Through the various computer game-like levels of the activity, we the audience find ourselves tested in the realm of problem-solving but also in the way that we relate to others in the absence of any obvious power structures. Are you a leader or a follower, could you make suggestions or contributions to a group of strangers, can you dance to Beyoncé – and would your answers stay the same when in the actual situation.
For me, this is one of the more interesting aspects of Invisible Treasure. It really does make you think about the ways in which we work with others versus the ways in which we think we do. I’d confidently say that I have no problem making my voice heard with people I don’t know yet in the moment, in the reality, a hesitancy kicks in, a passivity that I wouldn’t normally associate with myself. And this is something Dan Barnard and Rachel Briscoe as directors and co-conceivers of the experience have to further explore now that it has gone live and is finally being tested in the real world.
In a room dominated by reticence, how do you encourage participation. (Quite cleverly it turns out.) When you have cutting-edge sensor, sound and projection technologies to hand, how do you best utilise them to give a sense of progressive challenge. (With a bit more difficulty.) With so much to work out for ourselves and so little clue given, there was the occasional lack of clarity around whether we actually had completed a level or not or if we were just being moved onto the next because we were rubbish – the simple act of participation isn’t quite enough on its own to be really satisfied.
But maybe that is just part of it, the withholding of an over-arching context an integral part of the game-playing, setting it apart from your everyday corporate team-building exercises. Every group in Invisible Treasure will have their own journey and within each group, individual variances. As the publicity says “no actors. No plot. But there’s you. And maybe that’s enough” and with a spirit of adventurousness from you and a little bit of tweaking from them, it might just be.