Review Roundup: Punchdrunk's THE DROWNED MAN: A HOLLYWOOD FABLE

Review Roundup: Punchdrunk's THE DROWNED MAN: A HOLLYWOOD FABLE

Immersive Theatre Company Punchdrunk's latest show, The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable opened at Temple Studios, Paddington, on 17 July 2013.

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Let's see what the critics had to say:

BroadwayWorld's Katie Finburgh writes: An assault on your senses; sight, sound - and what really struck me - smell (sniff some of the hanging costumes and spray some of the scent!) Punchdrunk have created an intensely beautiful and sometimes eerie atmosphere. However, clad in the standard issue mask, you don't feel afraid to explore and its a wonderfully liberating and intoxicating feeling.

Michael Coveney of writes: Immersive, subversive, convulsive, divisive: there's nothing half-hearted about Punchdrunk's latest manipulative epic, co-directed by Felix Barrett and choreographer Maxine Doyle. It's shrouded in mystery and darkness in an abandoned factory next to Paddington station, an almost criminal exercise in alienation set in a 1950s film studio making a noir update of Georg Büchner's Woyzeck - on three vast, spooky levels - and in the surrounding forest and wasteland.

Fiona Mountford of the Evening Standard says: ...abandon all preconceptions of what theatre should be and prepare yourself for a multi-storey treat. The now transatlantically-renowned company, celebrated for its epic immersive productions in which audience members are free to wander at liberty, returns to London to take up residence in its largest ever found space, in a building next to Paddington Station. I'm not certain biggest means best for Punchdrunk - their 2006 piece Faust had more overall heft - but it's undeniably galvanising to have them back.

Michael Billington of the Guardian says: As so often with Punchdrunk, the choice of location is inspired. Here they have found a disused sorting office next to Paddington station and turned it into a Hollywood studio outpost filled with the tawdry magic of the moviemaking past. As spectators, we trace our own path through the four sound stages lovingly designed by Felix Barrett, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns. On one floor we find a mini-version of small-town America complete with drugstore, saloon, barber's shop and fountain. On another we seem to be on the set of a 1950s teen movie where a girls' dorm, full of teddy bears and cheap frills, is suddenly invaded by quiffed, randy boys. The design everywhere is immaculate down to the copies of Films and Filming that adorn a studio that was supposedly a branch of the notoriously parsimonious Republic Pictures.

Charles Spence of the Telegraph writes: Should you choose to see this amazing new production yourself - and provided you are sound of limb and don't scare too easily, I cannot recommend it too highly - your own visit will doubtless be completely different from mine.

Paul Taylor of the Independent says: Those familiar with Punchdrunk's previous projects will not be surprised to hear that you are required to don a mask (a sweatily hot business in the current heatwave), told to remain silent at all times, bundled into an industrial elevator and then set adrift in the worlds of Temple Pictures and the run-down LA suburb outside. Aptly, there is no shortage of folk who have lost their grip on reality in either of these locations. Directors Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle (in this co-production with the National) are bent on disorienting you further by running two versions of the story concurrently, one with a male, the other with a female Woyzeck. And the fact that you are never quite sure whether certain scenes will prove to have been a cinematic "take" compounds the blurring between the illusory and actual.

Dominic Maxwell of the Times says: It's quite possible that you will find this latest immersive spectacular from the trend-setting theatre company Punchdrunk, staged with staggering attention to detail over several floors of a disused sorting office next to Paddington station, to be as exciting as it is evocative... Yes, it's quite possible, but it's not quite the experience I had... There's plenty of material in here. Yet overall I spent more time chasing it than getting wowed or seduced by it... The choreographer Maxine Doyle, who also co-directs with Punchdrunk founder Felix Barrett, puts a sensual grace among the seediness and decay. The design, by Barrett, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns, is beyond brilliant. Who won't enjoy the dancing, the superbly staged death scenes? Who won't get off on the sumptuous strangeness of it all? And yet I found it wildly impressive but not wildly involving.

The Stage writes: There are two parallel narrative threads at play but the onus is on the audience to actively seek out the scenes and piece things together. Rooms reveal couples engaged in fevered dance sequences, starlets being humiliated, sinister men in masks. Much of what goes on is wordless, choreographed by Doyle. Occasionally a character will beckon an audience member into a room, snatch them away for a one-on-one experience. But the fact that any two audience members can have such strikingly different journeys from one another is something that can excite and frustrate in equal measure.

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