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The Drowned Man

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#1 Cardinal Pirelli

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Posted 21 June 2013 - 09:51 PM

Just home from 'The Drowned Man' and it's so good to have Punchdrunk back, compared to their imitators this is the real thing, fully immersive, complex and beautiful. A triumph. Given it's only the second preview, it's a minor miracle they managed to pull it together.

If you know Woyzeck and know what Hollywood/California is like, then you shouldn't have a problem understanding what's going on, as long as you put the leg work in (and it is pretty tiring), I managed to latch onto one of the main plots pretty soon and, from that point on, it's just a matter of putting the jigsaw together. This is also a dance show remember, you need to appreciate dance and there's more of it than usual, not just the contemporary work but a number of more choreographed pieces.

Some hints coming up but I'll put them behind spoilers so, if you want to be surprised, DO NOT LOOK.

Spoiler

Oh, and there were a number of audience members who didn't seem to have a clue what they were seeing, at the very least you'd think that they'd have found out what promenade means..... I fear that, for a while in the first booking period, you are going to get a number of trendy metropolitans who go because they think they should and who don't actually have much interest or inclination towards immersivity, dance and so on and; given it's 2007 since their last big show then they haven't yet had the chance to find that out. That's a price for success, you attract the ones who go because it's cool/trendy, whatever the current modish term is! To tell the truth, I hope they get put off. Do not go! I can say that because I don't have to worry about commerciality.

I go to a lot of immersive work; dreamthinkspeak, in comparison, charge a lot for much less (in fact I much preferred their 360 degree Hamlet 'The Rest is SIlence' to their promenade shows), Shunt produce unfinished and unexplored work, Wildworks are wildly variable (one year the Passion, next Babel.....), You Me Bum Bum Train and Look Left Right provide brillliant one on one experiences without any wider theatrical context. The Punchdrunk style gap has been filled.

#2 Lynette

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 09:30 AM

This trendy metropolitan ain't going. :rolleyes:

#3 xanderl

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 09:41 AM

Neither is this untrendy provincial ;)
"witty ... both made me laugh but also gave me pause" - Mark Shenton, The Stage

#4 Poly

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 10:00 AM

It was meh. Atmospheric and gorgeous to look at, but no much else was happening. When something was happening, there were so many people around that you couldn't see much. When you could see it was hardly mind blowing. And it's the least interactive theatre I have seen. The audience is defined by being there but totally absent.

If I had come across it by chance on a Friday afternoon, I would have enjoyed it as a different experience and the props / details are gorgeous. But as a major show, it's lacking.



#5 Cardinal Pirelli

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 11:18 AM

Immersive isn't the same as interactive, interactive is You Me Bum Bum Train.

There is a particular viewing technique which works best for me so, just in case it helps anyone, here's an outline. Overall, if you are indecisive and wait for things to happen you end up being nowhere interesting or watching the backs of heads. You have to be active and responsive and that isn't for some (there was, surprisingly I thought, a lot of grey hair in the queue beforehand, I'm greying so I hope they use it as a workout like I do!). You get a sense of when performers are static or moving so, above all else, you need to know where the exits to a space are and keep your eye on them in readiness to follow them out. In previous shows performers disappeared behind doors you couldn't access but I didn't get any of that so I was able to follow action continuously for about 90% of the time. The performers purposefully stop or slow down at certain points to allow you to keep contact.

If you are following a performer then there will be times where they are relatively uninvolved but don't be impatient, stick with them because they will be interacting at some point, if you get a sense that this is with a major character then follow them instead. It was surprising that the biggest parts of the audience often seemed to be following an ancillary character, I was virtually alone following one of the two 'Woyzeck's' for the first 75 minutes or so, for example.

I'd also suggest trying to get an early ticket entry time, it just gives you more chance to orientate yourself and to explore each of the floors before the main action starts.

When it says 'wear comfortable shoes' they aren't kidding, do so if you want to remain upright.

Above all, do not try and stick with someone else, it slows you and everyone else down.

A spoiler I forgot to mention -

Spoiler


#6 Alexandra

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 01:48 PM

Thank you Cardinal, very helpful (and the spoilers aren't really spoilers so don't be afraid to look). I'm going today and will bear your comments in mind.

#7 Stevemar

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Posted 22 June 2013 - 10:09 PM

Firstly, Cardinal Pirelli, many thanks for your wonderful review and the spoilers - actually I didn't really find them to be spoilers, but very useful. I enjoyed this a lot. I think this was more similar to Faust, but greater scope, wonderful sets and atmosphere. However, I kind of think it was "more of the same". Still engrossing and a great experience though. Lots of good self discovery for me (won't give anything away), and decided not to follow that much of the "main plot" but explore some "secret" places. Luckily in past shows (Faust and Masque of the Red Death both experienced twice), I had individual locked-in one on one experiences, but none this time.. How it does draw you in is that there is for me definitely enough to go back for a second viewing, which I might have to do!

#8 itsuckstobeme

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 08:02 PM

Audience was mostly hideous tonight, something about wearing a mask that makes people feel anonymous and all civility goes out of the window. I even overheard a man tell someone to go **** themselves when he was asked to turn his phone off.

#9 Cardinal Pirelli

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Posted 23 June 2013 - 10:04 PM

View Postitsuckstobeme, on 23 June 2013 - 08:02 PM, said:

Audience was mostly hideous tonight, something about wearing a mask that makes people feel anonymous and all civility goes out of the window. I even overheard a man tell someone to go **** themselves when he was asked to turn his phone off.

Sigh - this is what I was talking about, people who really don't know why they are there.

Still. it would be in keeping if enough people piled in, in an approximation of contemporary dance, to remove their phone and/or goolies.....

Did anyone see 'The Borough' in Aldeburgh? I went today and it was just as good but different. We can give spoilers away now the run has finished but it was an audio walk, a variation on Peter Grimes (which you really had to know to make the most of it, I listened to it again on the way up there) and I really wasn't expecting as many performers to turn up, they must have been in double figures easily.

With outdoor audio pieces there are these wonderfully serendipitous moments; the weather was horrible but perfect today, for example. Heavy intermittent showers that happened at the most effective moments of the walk/drama.

You got to spy Ellen Orford from inside her wardrobe, got followed by locals like some vigilante group after you, menaced by Boles in a shed, all the while listening to a very good narration piece by Jack Thorne (with Britten music at appropriate points, mostly the interludes but some vocal pieces as well).

As for the ending....

I was being followed up a lane and had to go through a gate onto a marsh (a real one) weaving my way to a little wooden hut (it was like the one pictured on the page below, but imagine that with a narrow path through shoulder high reeds). At this point the heavens opened with sideways pelting rain and I was starting to feel (as the audio was suggesting) that I was Peter Grimes. Soaked I entered the hut, which turned out to be, internally, a replica of one I'd seen already on the beach. This time, however, I looked around and there was 'The Boy' and, after observing him and he interacting with me and, as the music swelled and boomed in the hut, he pushed me back towards the wall, at which point another door opened and I went out to be confronted by 'The Borough'. Imagine, in that rainswept marshland, being confronted by a six or seven people dotted around in the reeds wearing oilskins glaring menacingly at you, with a massive bloke getting really rather too close with a big stick. I'm not afraid to say that I was blubbing at that point but, thankfully, my life was spared. After this the sun peeked through the clouds as I trudged away to the end point, listening to Peter Pears' incomparable voice (Now the Great Bear and Pleiades I think, but I was a bit shaky by that point). It was as though somebody was operating a heavenly weather system at the right moments.

http://www.brittenal...mes/the-borough

It took ages to get there and ages to get back but it was worth it. I hope they put it on again in future festivals.

#10 Alexandra

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Posted 24 June 2013 - 09:15 AM

I think I'm somewhere between Cardinal and Poly. Yes, there was a lot of dance, and despite the obvious effort and energy going in from the performers, the experience didn't quite immerse me the way Faust for example did. Maybe that was mainly due to my increasing familiarity with Punchdrunk, but also none of the sets, whilst beautifully detailed and clever, quite blew me away the way the forest and the corn field did in Faust.  Also, as people become more used to the idea of following a main character and diving for the exits to follow them, there's quite a bit of jostling to keep up and that becomes a bit stressful; on the other hand if you don't follow a main character, you risk missing the main scenes.  I agree with Cardinal, orientate yourself in the building first and visit each floor (and if you don't know the story of Woyzeck, a quick google will help you, unless of course you want to come to it tabula rasa).  The finale is very hard to see if you arrive at it late, as the room is full of people and the action isn't sufficiently raised - I managed to see the end of it by climbing a lighting rig, but I can't think that should really be necessary (though was quite thrilled when no-one tried to stop me - health and safety are not crazily enforced in this building; it's very dark and I bumped into more than one sticking out bit of metal or piece of furniture. I wouldn't be at all surprised if there are some minor accidents, but the small bruises I went home with felt like a badge of honour). Overall I would say that if they don't want the experience to become about hordes of people racing round the building following a main character, they need to make it worthwhile to miss the main scenes and branch off on one's own by creating more one to ones - I only saw one or two minor singlings out, though of course I may have missed others. I'm going to start a spoiler thread for those who want to talk about individual scenes.




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