Review: Death Tax, second play in the Royal Court's weekly rep
Review: Pigeons, third play in the Royal Court's weekly rep

Review: Punchdrunk's A Drowned Man or nice sets shame about the lack of performance

WOYZECK_HORIZONTAL_22"Punchdrunk has developed a phenomenal reputation for transformative productions that focus as much on the audience and the performance as on the performers and the narrative."

And THAT is the problem with Drowned Man summed up by the people themselves. Based on Buchner's Woyzeck (apparently) it has an old Hollywood studio theme for the set which is spread throughout a rambling multi-storey building next to Paddington Station. The audience is dressed in masks and left to wander silently through near darkness trying to find something actually going on.

The sets and lighting (when there is some) is spectacular, very atmospheric in fact but after an hour of aimless wandering we'd caught snatches of three scenes. Three scenes. These were a couple having a row, which was depicted through interpretive dance, a woman doing some sort of interpretive dance in front of the light of a church and another couple having a - yes you guessed it - interpretive dance row on a sand bank.

After an hour an a half of groping around aimlessly in the gloom we could add a woman standing in the corner of a room under red threads hanging from a ceiling, another woman doing interpretive dance, this time in a wood, a woman in a small office filling a bottle and a couple drinking in a tent with the woman running away. Should have followed her lead.

Oh and there was some form of song and dance entertainment going on in a bar set but we happened upon that while trying to find the exit by which point we just wanted out.

I don't think I'm plot spoiling by telling you any of that. My only sense of narrative came from what I'd already read of the Woyzeck story prior to the performance not from what Punchdrunk were putting on.

A Drowned Man feels like a production that works brilliantly in the heads  and workshops of those who have devised it but they have forgotten that the audience isn't inside their heads and hasn't sat through the workshops.

Punchdrunk is right about it being just as much about the audience. The most interesting part was watching the audience mainly because it was so hard finding any performance going on most of the time. In fact I saw people running after performers as they ran off a set. 

It wouldn't have been so bad if what we had managed to catch sight of had been really interesting but it wasn't. It was generally boring and unintelligible. Getting told off for not having my mask on (it was uncomfortable over my glasses) was more interesting.

I'm not adverse to trying out new experiences at the theatre, I've seen some highly effective immersive, promenade and interactive productions but this wasn't any of those things. It was indulgent and pretentious and just plain boring. It just made me cross, tired and galled that I'd spent £30. Getting outside was such a relief.

It runs until 31 December and you can read Poly's more eloquent thoughts on it here.