When One is tired of London….Episode 1 ‘The Drowned Man’

I can say I have been tired recently but certainly not of London. In fact I would say this has been the first Summer in a very long time that I have made the most of what’s on offer in this great city. Largley due to having energetic and interested house guests, but also due to the fact I have been holed up for some time now and have finally found the need to shake it off and remind myself of who and where I am.

Having missed (forgotten) to take photographs of what Ben would call ‘blogortunitites’ over the last couple of weeks due to being so involved in what I was doing I thought I’d skim some images courtesy of the kind people of the internet to share with you. So thank you kind people with foresight and cameras. Let me know if you have any objections to me using your images IF you can prove they are in fact yours yeah?

The first cultural event I want to blog about that I never thought I’d see myself going to was a production by the immersive theatre group Punchdrunk and their latest theatrical adventure ‘The Drowned Man’ ( I ended up seeing it twice!). I’m normally the LAST person to put their hand up to volunteer attending any theatre. I find live performance pretty, I dunno, in your face? Theatrical? Performancy? Self conscious for sure. People pretending to be other people anywhere other than on the telly have always made little sense to me. Puppets are OK, because people are pretending to be an inanimate object and that makes perfect sense. Call me uncultured, I really don’t mind. Educate me, if you want to put in the time I’m happy to do the crime. PLEASE!

My first theatrical experience was seeing CATS in Auckland in 1990 (same year as the Auckland Commonwealth Games, which was/is still OUR London Olympic Summer!) when I was 12. The tickets cost my mother a fortune and she made me a waistcoat with a tiger print/face pattern especially for the evening, she’d seen it a few years before in Sydney and didn’t want me to miss the dazzle. There was so much anticipation and SO much riding on it being amazing for me. I think I ended up being so nervous I forgot to actually enjoy it! ( Or perhaps seeing fully grown men and women pouncing around in leotards painted up as cats singing renditions of Barbara Streisands’ ‘Memories’ makes you automatically block/hate all theatre?)


cats 1

 Back to The Drowned Man…I was offered a ticket a few weeks ago almost last minute by a friend which I couldn’t make, that same weekend I was given a second spare ticket a chance I figured the gods were telling me something so I went. I took a group of six the week after that.

The Drowned Man - Punchdrunk production

 The Drowned Man is a completely different experience. Set over four or five floors (200,000 sq ft) in an old postal sorting office in Paddington, two stories of love gone wrong are played out and it is up to each individual audience member to decide which storyline or actor they want to follow. We were given masks upon entering and told to remain completely silent throughout but encouraged to explore, leave no stone unturned if we so felt the need. The staging is vast. I spent the first visit mostly wandering around wondering how they’d managed it and only getting glimpses of the action. The second time I decided I wanted to follow the story more closely and it was pretty extraordinary. I’m aware there is an unwritten code that punchdrunk fans don’t reveal any plot line so I’m not going to spoil it for anyone other than to say, its a three hour performance and the first lot of friends I went with who were experienced in punchdrunk said ‘there will be a point where you want to start looking for the secret bar, find it and odds are we will be there or not far behind’ I can tell you both times this happens approximately two hours in and the last hour is spent happily in a replica 60’s Hollywood club where you drink and fall in love with the man singing Blue Valentine perfectly dressed in a white tuxedo and all the girls walking around on floor length sequined gowns whispering sweet nothings in punters (who can’t believe their luck) ears.

What I loved about The Drowned Man was how it was so different to regular theatre. Things I struggle with i.e. the self-consciousness, when everyone around you is laughing so hard/reacting so strongly to something that you think is utter crap. You then need to proceed to judge the entire audience, especially the friends that invited you (entire friendships needs to be fully re-evaluated), its stressful. If you really hate it you can walk away and visit the bar. If you really love it you can secretly weep and get swept away with it because you are wearing a mask and have lost your mates and are anonymous. I can’t possibly comment on the quality of the dancing or acting I have zero knowledge of it but at least I can now say I say I have a burgeoning interest.

The Drowned Man runs until the 30th December in London’s Paddington, tickets and dates available here. I urge you to experience it for yourself and if you have any recommendations I’d love to hear them. Having shared mine I’m now far more interested in hearing about your first foray into the theatre.


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