Punchdrunk – The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable (Preview)

There’s a lot of buzz at the moment surrounding Punchdrunk’s new show The Drowned Man. The first I heard of it was via a brief facebook status by an Edinburgh friend and Bedlamite: “Shall I see this, this evening? Can I afford it?”. This was succeeded the comment “it’s incredible” and so, although slightly dissuaded by the affordability factor, I decided to delve further.

The webpage itself is typically unassuming. As with all pages on the National Theatre website, the description is only too brief, with whatever poster or illustration that accompanies it giving little away. And although Punchdrunk’s reputation precedes them, altogether there wasn’t enough to grab my attention first time round.

Then came the hype. I’m always a little skeptical of hype. When something is built up that much, it’s strikes me that you’re only going to be disappointed if your expectations are thus set too high. Twitter has exploded with “I’ve bought tickets to see it 5 TIMES in a row”s and “MIND BLOWN”s and despite it all, a little voice in my head was saying “Really? Can it really be that good?”

Punchdrunk are known for their boundary-pushing pieces of immersive theatre. As a company they’re dedicated to creating “transformative productions that focus as much on the audience and the performance space as on the performers and narrative.”

In short, they take over deserted buildings and turn them into giant, thought-provoking, surreal playrooms.

Since 2000, Punchdrunk have been churning out play after award-winning play, and now, thirteen years later, it seems  they’ve reached their pièce de résistance. The Drowned Man, a self titled ‘Hollywood Fable’, focuses around the fictional, multilevel ‘Temple Studios’ and the darkness of the Hollywood Dream. An interactive, three-hour epic, Punchdrunk invite you to follow the protagonists “along the precipice between illusion and reality”, described by some as “being stuck in a David Lynch film you can’t escape from”.

Intriguing? You betcha. I’ve bitten the bullet, bought my tickets and I’m prepared to be impressed. I always find immersive theatre can be a bit hit-and-miss (throwback to a disastrous Edinburgh Fringe 2011 rendition of Beauty and the Beast) so I have a tendency to remain skeptical. However when it’s done well, it’s really done well. I guess we can only wait and see. November 26th can’t come quickly enough! See you on the other side.


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