Another look at the Drowned Man: Five things I learned about Punchdrunk (and a few questions)

Paul Zivkovich at the Drowned Man. Photo Perou.

Paul Zivkovich at the Drowned Man. Photo Perou.

I never imagined I ‘d be writing a third blog post about Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man. After all, I regularly fail to write about theatre productions I have seen, such is the nature of blogging in a non professional capacity. But the response to my review of The Drowned Man, with a wide range of fascinating and articulate comments, made me think:

1) The Drowned Man feels like the stadium tour of an indie band. A new audience tries to discover what’s all about and some problems relate to scale: huge space, many people, that indie feeling is not there any more.

2) Punchdrunk has a huge fanbase I knew nothing about. Are their productions better appreciated by fans? Some art is better understood when you already know it’s a vital part of your life: subtleties open up, outsiders are baffled (and often amused, think of sc-ifi geekery and you get the picture). Does Punchdrunk fall into that category? Continue reading

Review: Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable

Paul Zivkovich and Kate Jackson in Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man. Photo: Perou

Paul Zivkovich and Kate Jackson in Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man. Photo: Perou

I thought long and hard how to start this review. Or even whether I should write it. Because Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man plays a trick on you. If it’s performance, where is it? If it’s a walk among someone’s life, random, rambling, often boring, why should I review it?

Admittedly, it’s a gorgeously lit, gorgeously designed walk: motels, boudoirs, bedrooms, forests, trailer parks, sand dunes, diners. People were walking around trying to latch onto the details, find meaning on the minutiae. If there was a story, I didn’t find it. Without the story, the action was falling apart: if I am honest, most of the performed action was banal.

There were interesting elements of passages that would only open if you were there at the right time, like a portal in His Dark Materials. The movement of the audience was fascinating, chasing around what little action there was, converging and dispersing. Continue reading

Punchdrunk is back in town. But The Drowned Man comes at a (steep) price

The Drowned Man - A Hollywood Fable. A Punchdrunk production. Photo by creativeXs

The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Fable. A Punchdrunk production. Photo by creativeXs

Last week, a wave of excitement shivered among theatre junkies. A cryptic email by the National Theatre, and snippets of information ingenuously gathered by the most inventive among us, pointed to a new Punchdrunk production (or rather experience) coming to town. Quickly the rumours were confirmed, the National Theatre website got very busy, and The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Fable became a hot ticket. To top up the excitement, a mini preview show – a bit like a live trailer – played in a secret location in Dalston (not so secret that the Telegraph didn’t get to review it though).

I have to admit  my enthusiasm is somewhat muted. Mainly because the ticket prices don’t feel right. First of all, considering it’s a National Theatre co-production, the tickets are fairly expensive (standard tickets £39 or £47.50 depending on the day, previews a bit cheaper, limited number of concessions at £19.50). The ticketing policy is also unclear and some of the pricing information is  only provided after you start the booking process.But the main source for my dissatisfaction is the presence of premium tickets. Premium seats are nothing new, most theatres have a variety of ticket prices based on the fact that, unless you stage a production in someone’s living room, not all seats are equally  good.

The premium prices for Punchdrunk’s The Drowned Man (at a massive £85 a ticket) are somewhat different. Continue reading