Focus on: Transmission

The whole of Edinburgh becomes the stage in this immersive augmented reality extravaganza about humanity's first contact with aliens

feature | Read in About 2 minutes
30983 large
Published 22 Jul 2017

Cast your minds all the way back to the summer of 2016, when the nation stumbled through towns and cities, and scoured fields and woodland with their eyes glued to the glowing screens of their smartphones, hunting for pocket monsters of all shapes and sizes. Twelve months later, and a team of artists from the US and Canada have created a multi-layered performance piece that they’re billing as ‘Pokemon Go meets Arrival’ – it's all the fun of an augmented reality treasure hunt, but this time players will be seeking fragments of a story and snatches of performance of a drama about humankind’s first contact with extra-terrestrials. 

Creator and co-writer Ian Garrett describes Transmission as a "distributed performance and podcast series" which, taken as a whole, provides "an examination of displacement and connection with others in an unfamiliar world".

The traditional ‘performance’ element of the show takes place each day at the Assembly George Square Studios, but where most Fringe shows end when you spill back out onto the streets, Transmission invites its participants to continue the journey at site-specific locations across Edinburgh.

A walking tour this ain’t, but rather an opportunity to see the city through new eyes. As Garrett explains, some of these 25-plus elements are "short live scenes, and some are immersive recordings. Each scene is set in a specific place, so the experience of viewing the scene blends with the audience’s sensory experience of that place".

Think of them as side quests; as sub-plots. "Our AR [augmented reality] sequences allow audiences to follow the story in real time", promises Garrett, "to, almost ghost-like, become invisible witness to the reasons behind the choices the characters make."

Precise details of the plot are being kept a secret, but we know it tells the story of sisters Leila and Zada Karam, both genius scientists, who are forced to make a wrenching decision when the first manned interstellar mission is launched.

With concepts of intergalactic eavesdropping and humanity’s place in a changing galaxy, there is plenty of tantalising promise in Transmission. It’s an epic task for Garrett and his team to realise, and it’s asking a lot of its audiences in the quick-fire, packed-schedule world of Edinburgh. Only time will tell if this interstellar message proves worth tuning in to.