Review: Invisible Cities at Manchester International Festival 2019

Billed as one to watch I headed down to the brand-new Mayfield to check out this creative adaptation of Italo Calvino's Invisible Cities.

By Lee Isherwood | 12 July 2019

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As cities go Manchester is of course a feast for the eyes and as visually stimulating as they come, so say I, but what if all the cities you can imagine exist, existed or are yet to be, where would you want to be taken?

Invisible Cities beautifully maps out entire worlds as Marco Polo wordsmiths to life a limitless series of inhabited possibilities.

We’re taken on a journey of discovery as Kublai Khan ruler of the Khan dynasty demands enlightenment and craves truths from his captive whilst all the while toying with the fate of Marco’s father and uncle.

Trigged by an ethereal vision of Zenobia, a city of joy that sets these 2 men in a spiralling relationship of dependency that is anything but joyous.

A visual marvel at times and Instagram gold (if only you could take pictures) 59 Productions have worked the space for this piece brilliantly. Mayfield comes alive – transformed with light and sweeps of reconfiguration and who knew that an in-the round production would work so brilliantly in this old depot of ours.


These transient and ephemeral cities speak to the audience as intended by director Leo Warner, brought to life by Rambert’s characterisation of their inhabitants with clever use of simple props and stylised architectural elements.

Small interlude here however – at moments the dialogue was difficult to follow and in the first half the immense skill of Ballet Rambert felt under-utilised, serving almost as visually pleasing end of scene moments whilst transitioning to set change, masterful as they were.

The second half and the movement builds through the piece driving more emotion and the score by Winged Victory for the Sullen supported the visualisation of these cities in their build and at their peaks brilliantly.

The celestial city world of Beersheba in particular catching my attention as a possible relocation option, though the sewers left a lot to be desired.

Invisible Cities has been rumoured as one of, if not the one to see at this year’s MIF and for those looking for something ambitious, though arguably still in the making, that captures your attention and gives moments of pure visual enjoyment then this is certainly one for you.


Invisible Cities at MIF 2019

Venue: Mayfield
Dates: Tuesday 2nd July – Sunday 14th July
Cost: £35

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