It’s just over a week since I saw the PunchDrunk performance of The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable at Temple Studios near Paddington, and I just can’t contain my excitement any longer and have to write about it. Now I’ve spent £37.50 on a lot worse things, such as an amalgamation of Megabus tickets left unused over the past few months when I chicken out and get the train, and also plenty of ‘necessary’ shopping trips for ‘integral’ wardrobe items, so spending £37.50 on a theatre ticket, when you don’t even get to sit down for the whole 3hr performance? Not really my style. But it happened to be my best friend’s 21st birthday, and to say it nicely, she’s into some weird shit.
However, after reading what limited literature I could find online about this certain performance, I decided to give up, and just turn up on Tuesday night with my ticket in hand, and my intrigue at all time high. Queuing at an event like this isn’t the same as standing in a queue for a concert or waiting in line for hours for the latest Apple product (who does that anyway really?) but instead, an experience in itself. You are offered shots whilst you queue (£3 each of course) and urged to read the names of characters displayed on boards on the walls.
I’d watched an episode of Gossip Girl recently where PunchDrunk’s famous show in NYC, ‘Sleep No More’ features as an exciting, all masked ‘who’s-who-let’s-kiss-this-random-person-who-I’ve-‘accidentally’-mistaken-for-someone-else-even-though-they’re-only-wearing-a-mask-and-I-can distinctly-tell-it’s-the-person-I’ve-been-in-love-with-for-the-past-3-seasons’ kind of skit within the episode. So naturally, judging by the reality of Gossip Girl, I still had no idea of what to expect, other than I knew the shape of the mask. Which in itself is hella scary.
Apprehensive about getting into the lift along with our first ‘guide’, a camp Hollywood wannabe ‘studio employee’ reassured us that there would be attendants dressed in black with black masks on who were happy to help us were we were if we got lost, but could not and would not advise or guide us where to go. There was no health and safety talk, and no the emergency exits are ‘here, here and here’, speeches, just reach the designated floor, being forced out of the lift into total darkness and finding your way until you come across your first scene.
Now I’m not going to give you any inclination as to what actually occurs inside the performance areas, which are pretty much everywhere you can and can’t think of in this 4 storey warehouse, but one thing I can tell you was that in order to get the most out of our experience, we were advised to ‘go it alone’ and pretty much in camp Hollywood studio worker’s words ‘Ditch our friends’. Which I can honestly say was great advice for a while, but bumping into my friend again made sure we explored every single crevice and definitely went to some places that others definitely didn’t. But then you leave with the paranoia that perhaps you didn’t see everything, until finally you come to terms with the fact that you most probably didn’t see everything. But does it matter? No. PunchDrunk’s ethos is to give the audience the freedom to participate as much or as little with their performances, going your own path to decide your destiny not only decides what/who/where you come across, it lets you have the decision to get as much out of your £37.50 as you possibly can.