Secret Cinema changed the face of cinema and the experience that people want to obtain from going to the movies. It has lead to an increase in themed nights and made going to the cinema more immersive. Punchdrunk‘s The Drowned Man has done the same for theatre – I cannot look at another normal theatre performance the same way again without wanting to get what I got from my experience at Temple Studios from it. Punch Drunk with The Drowned Man like Secret Cinema has changed the theatre game. Its shown audiences how much more immersive the experience can be
I knew nothing about The Drowned MAN before I went to see it. All I knew it was going to be a different sort of theatre experience and that it was going to cost me £50. I wasn’t immediately convinced that it would be worth the price tag. I soon ate my words!!!! It was one of the greatest pieces of work I have been to in a long time. The amount of planning and choreography that went into the show is immense.
The Drowned Man is set amidst the fading glamour of 1960s Los Angeles at Temple Studios – a crumbling monument to the golden age of film, seducing wide-eyed dreamers with the promise of wealth and fame. Here, movie stars mingle with hungry young upstarts, while beyond the gates lies a forgotten hinterland where the many rejected by the studio system scratch out a living. Inspired by Georg Büchner’s fractured masterpiece Woyzeck, The Drowned Man explores the darkness of the Hollywood dream. Celluloid fantasy meets desperate reality, and certainty dissolves into a hallucinatory world.
As I descended upon Temple Studios in Paddington I realised that it was the old Royal Mail sorting office that was by my old university. I joined the queue of hundreds of people as they were ushered in I was wondering why there were these preshow toilets that they told people to use (I recommend you hit those toilets up so that you don’t miss anything). After lining up we had to don a mask that looks a little like one of those masks out of Eyes Wide Shut and are told we cannot talk during the performance. We are then grouped and taken through a load of dark corridors and into a service elevator which opens up into world that is heavily influenced by the world of David Lynch. The first thing you are exposed to are black & white checked floors. Red curtains and ominous music. The production blurs lines between the life of the characters and the production they are in much in the same way of Mulholland Drive, Black Swan & Perfect Blue to spooky effect
I don’t want to go too much into the story and narratives as you should watch it as blind as possible. Some people have said it is good to familiarise yourself with Woyzeck– as I haven’t read it I wouldn’t know. There are 2 main different story streams that run through the production and once inside you can follow any of the 20 different characters across the labyrinth of the vast building. I was surprised by the sheer size of the place which was over 4 huge floors and how they managed to deck out the entire building with different scenes and rooms that you can freely explore. There are bedrooms, studies full of letters to read, studios, doctors’ offices, rooms full of spooky mannequins, houses, woodland, trailer park, sand dunes and much more. You can chose to follow any characters you want as they traverse the area or simply choose to explore different rooms. You get out of the experience what you put in – you’ll get more of a story by following a specific character and be ready to do some running to keep up with them as they go from one set piece to the next. There are 2 murders that occur in the show. I was lucky enough to be following the narratives where they both occur.
Many parts of the stories are told through dance rather than talking which takes over the whole creative space to great effect. The choreography is amazing and the shapes the actors perform and impressive and strong, one piece in particular which takes place on a caravan is jaw dropping
The show is not for the faint of heart. There is murder, sex, tragedy, naked bodies, possession and more. The production is so fast I could go 3 times and have 3 completely different experiences
Punchdrunk with The Drowned Man have revisioned how to experience theatre. It isn’t so much interactive as the audience for the most part play a silent role in the story. It is completely immersive – for those 3 hours you are there you are drawn into the dark world of murder and intrigue that will have you talking about it to your friends for weeks afterwards.
I walked into this production without knowing much about it and complaining about the price tag, I came out completely amazed by the world I experience and will going again before its closes to see some of the other narratives within the world
Secret Cinema started off this new revolution of bringing something new to productions. They need to take at Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man as they have taken immersivity to a new level
The Drowned Man runs until 30th December
Temple Studios, London Street, W2 1DJ
Tickets are £47.50 and available – http://www.nationaltheatre.org.uk/shows/the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable
By Tendai – Cognitive Space
The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable Review