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Thoughts on ‘The Drowned Man’.

Two whole Bank Holidays have passed since Moon and I took ourselves up to London to take in some culture in the form of immersive theatre with The Drowned Man by Punch Drunk.

So often with things like this I have every intention of writing up something straight away but then other things come up and I dunno, then it just feels like the moment has passed. I think it’s even easier for me to do this when I have so many pictures on my blog and I wasn’t even allowed to take any – nor would I have wanted to – on this occasion.

The reason I’m ignoring the fact that the moment has passed is because you really need to see this play if you can. It opened in July last year and is running until 6th July this year, so there’s still plenty of time to squeeze it in if you’re heading up to London but have no plans for what to do.

Set in and around the fictional Temple Studios, which is actually an old Royal Mail sorting office, The Drowned Man tells the tale of the suspicious failing of a once successful Hollywood studio. This mainly involves tragedy for the actors, those working at the studio and people living in the surrounding town. The story is neither here nor there because chance are you will see something completely different to, that’s just what I took from it.

You are encouraged on your ticket and once you arrive that you should split up from you party. This was something Moon and I were actually a little skeptical about because it’s basically a big dark warehouse with a load of people in masks. We did though, and it’s probably the best decision we made because we came away with different experiences of what had just happened and could share our thoughts on The Drowned Man separately.

As it’s immersive theatre, there is no stage and you follow the cast around the 5 floors of Temple Studios through sets that include a forest, a trailer park, a beach (including sand) and even a secret cinema. The attention to detail is incredible and you can really interact with the set itself too. I think you could go through just the set and appreciate it as an art installation without even seeing the play itself and still enjoy it. Even books that you pick off the shelves feature handwriting from the characters in them. There are notes and personal items everywhere, it’s amazing to think of the amount of thought that’s gone into just the set design.

Things do get pretty intense and in the first hour or so, while you’re still getting used to what the hell is going on, it’s very surreal. You can stand centimetres away from characters or read over their shoulders and they completely ignore you. To differentiate between audience and cast, all audience members are to wear masks and there’s no speaking throughout – you can see then why it’s pretty clear that it would be silly to take photographs, not least because it’s so dark throughout that it would be a major distraction and kind of ruin it (for everyone) but also, it’s nice to have a little something that allows you to relax and focus properly on what’s going on.

I’ve seen some audience members went away with fake blood spattered across their masks, the most I got was touched on the shoulder as a character moved through the crowd, that was pretty unnerving, especially since I hadn’t spoken for around an hour and a half by that point. Not quite as freaky as the silent stampede of masked audience members as they move through the Temple Studios world.

It was the above Instagram photo from Nev Schulman (of Catfish-fame) that made me curious to find out what The Drowned Man actually was and I’m glad I did. We were lucky enough that Moon’s mum had got him some theatre vouchers for Christmas a few years ago, the 5pm show on Fridays also includes a concession for people under 26, bit of a result. Still, I’d say less £35 each for an experience like this was well worth it, we spent the full 3 hours there and it was nothing short of a brilliant way to spend an evening.

With cameos from fancy famous people like Andrew Garfield and Florence Welch and so many different places to explore, even seeing this production a few times wouldn’t allow you the same experience. I can’t recommend it highly enough and will definitely be checking out Punch Drunk’s future productions once The Drowned Man’s run has finished.

What do you think of immersive theatre? Have you seen The Drowned Man before or would you like to?

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