What would you do if you were invisible for a day? Well last night, my Mum and I went up to London to give it a try in the coolest theatre experience ever.
Punchdrunk is a groundbreaking theatre company that works within the emerging theatre genre "immersive theatre" in which the audience is given the ability to run free around the set and explore the story as much or as little as they like. Sounds confusing? It is. Sounds fun? It definitely is. Their latest production "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable" works with National Theatre and recreates Temple Studios, Hollywood's London outpost until it closed for unknown reasons in the 1950s. Inspired by Buchner's "Woyzeck", Punchdrunk combines (limited) dialogue, (stunning) dance
I first heard about the company in a Radio 4 documentary "It's Fun, But Is It Theatre?" and so it was a no brainer when the collaboration was announced that we would get tickets. They were expensive, about £50 each, but it was worth it.
From the beginning the experience was great. I mean, those loos! And because I'm under 18 I got to wear a visitors pass and feel super special. But then we went in, and were immediately confront with a pitch black corridor, which my Mum had serious trouble navigating, before we encountered other audience members (who I thought were actors originally). From there, we were given masks and shown into an old school lift with the doors that were opened manually by an actress. Inside the scene was set: it was the 1950s. We were going on a tour of Temple Studios after they had just finished filming their latest film. We had been given complete access to the studios but were advised to not go into the surrounding neighbor hoods. The door was opened by the actress and we were guided out. When I say we I mean my Mum and I, because the door was immediately slammed, and the rest of the group continued up, whilst we were left to explore on our own.
I now encounter a problem writing this review as I don't really want to write about what happened. Even though I know my readers are strewn across the globe, and therefore won't be going to see this production, it's as if it a secret. Because everybody really does have different experiences (some scenes are performed to just one audience member) it feels like an exam. You can talk about the things that everyone had (in this metaphor, the questions), like the amazing set, which no matter how hard I tried, I could not find a fault with, but you must never talk about what happened to you (answering the questions) as it will leave other people questioning themselves and worrying they did it wrong.
What I can say is that I don't think it was supposed to end for me like it did. I think the visitors pass meant that actors couldn't take me off by myself, but one did. Was that slightly illegal?
If you ever find yourself at one Punchdrunk's productions (they are currently running Sleep No More in New York) don't hold back. Go everywhere, follow whoever you like (I would have liked to focus on the story slightly more as I became a bit too excited by my independence and flitted from character to character, floor to floor) and enjoy it, because you will never have the same experience again.
My experience: 4*