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Invisible Cities

Manchester International Festival


A tantalising glimpse of an intangible truth

Brunel meets Dante in this spellbinding spectacle
A remarkable piece of work

Zenobia, a city of joy. Beersheba, a celestial city of gold. Isadora, a city of promise, seduction and desire. City by unseen city, the young explorer conjures from the ether a vast and spectacular empire – all for the benefit of its emperor, his master, who may never get to see it for himself…

Leo Warner, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, Lolita Chakrabarti, 59 Productions and Rambert bring to life a series of fantastical places in this world-premiere production. Centred on the edgy relationship between Kublai Khan, the volatile head of a vast empire, and explorer Marco Polo, who must transcend a language barrier to describe it for him, this spellbinding mix of theatre, choreography, music, architectural design and projection mapping imagines a succession of alternative worlds – and reimagines what is possible in live performance.

Opened July 2019

Manchester International Festival & Brisbane Festival

The Design

Developing the design approach

Venue and staging design



Selected Reviews

A phantasmagorical production of Italo Calvino’s fantastical travelogue is an inspired international festival project… Set in a huge disused and near derelict rail station, Invisible Cities becomes less a play, more a staged sculpture… quietly profound
In a feat of production design, the stage – around which the audience, like compass points, is divided into four distinct phalanxes – morphs from throne room to temple, encampment to shopping mall, and even to a Venetian canal, complete with water, gondola and bridge.
Invisible Cities is a mesh of contemporary dance, projections, spectacular staging and a thumping score set within the imposing Mayfield building. This Manchester International Festival world premiere is a mesmerising production, an intercontinental adventure for the Game of Thrones generation
Invisible Cities is an interrogation of humanity through the medium of cities." That is a conversation pertinent across the globe, certainly not least in fast-changing Manchester.
Those behind the production have managed to create something that cannot be defined by genre… a flawless and immersive piece of theatre
The setting, rusted and crumbling, but sturdy, is magnificent.

Production Photos


Leo Warner

Co-Director & Choreographer
Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui

Lolita Chakrabarti

Concept & Design
59 Productions



Kublai Khan
Danny Sapani

Marco Polo
Matthew Leonhart

Dustin O’Halloran & Adam Bryanbaum Wiltzie of
A Winged Victory for the Sullen

Stage Designer
Jenny Melville

Video Designer
Nicol Scott

Costume Designer
Laura Hopkins

Lighting Designer
Fabiana Piccioli

Sound Designer
Gareth Fry

Casting Director
Sam Jones CDG

Creative Advisor
Benoit Swan Pouffer

Assistant Director
Rebecca Hanbury

Produced by
Manchester International Festival, 59 Productions, Rambert and Karl Sydow.

Commissioned by
Manchester International Festival, Brisbane Festival, Hong Kong New Vision Arts Festival, Sadler’s Wells, SMG Live, Sheikh Jaber Al-Ahmed Cultural Centre (JACC) and Karl Sydow.

59 team

Leo Warner

Executive Producer
Anna Jameson

Stage Designer
Jenny Melville

Video Designer
Nicol Scott

Associate Stage Designer
Claudia Fragoso

Assistant Video Designers
Hanna Schrage
Matthew Taylor

Studio Coordinator
Kate Stanley

Jamie McComb
Tom Munday
Jarek Radecki
Edd Stockton
Lawrence Watson

Jenn Reynolds PR

Behind the Scenes DOP & Editor
Jessie Rodger