Readers review… Punchdrunk: The Drowned Man

Posted at 11:30 am, July 31, 2013 in Arts & Entertainment
Punchdrunk's A Drowned Man

Punchdrunk’s latest site-specific theatre piece, A Drowned Man, has been running for several weeks now – and judging from the comments we’ve received, it’s a more ‘love it or hate it’ proposition than Lady Sovereign dipped in Marmite.

Let’s start with this take from Adam Walker (for which he earned review of the week)

“This is my third Punchdrunk experience (after ‘The Masque of the Red Death’ in Battersea and ‘Sleep No More’ in New York) and it’s just as good as the other two. Virgins to these shows best read up on what to expect. The interpretive silent dance is what makes Punchdrunk unique, while the masks are equally synonymous with their work – so don’t complain about them. They’re what make this work so memorable. Seeing 600 masks at the climax is one hell of an experience!

If you go with friends, you should split up. It’s the perfect show to go to on your own. Create your own journey. The sets are some of the best you’ll see. The detail is extraordinary. Similarly, the sound design is some of the most atmospheric you’ll hear. It’s truly like being left to roam a ’60s Hollywood studio back lot after dark… alone. Prepare to be blown away.

Shows like this make me proud to be a Londoner. We are a city at the forefront of originality and creativity. Leave your preconceptions at the door, don the mask, step right in and be drowned in the power and beauty of performance art. I’m booking another ticket pronto.” ★★★★★

 High praise! But wait, ncooty begs to differ…

“I found the overall performance boring and frustrating, because of the directing, not the acting. I kept searching for a plot worth the ticket price… and then any plot at all… or character development. Nothing. The histrionic dancing and over-wrought intensity seemed to indicate that there was some sort of plot urgently developing just beyond what I could discern, but after 3 hours, I was sufficiently convinced that there was no plot at all.” ☆☆☆☆

No plot? Una‘s having none of it:

“I had no trouble following the storylines. Each person will have had a different experience, which is the point of it, and as in all immersive theatre; if you embrace the experience you will get more from it.”  ★★★★★

Embrace it? Kim couldn’t help but head for the exit:

“It’s really like a visit to the ghost house at the fair, while compelled to wear a quite uncomfortable mask. After about an hour, bored, and realising there was no narrative/plot to be found and keep us engaged, we quietly left them to it and went for a meal and some engaging conversation.” ☆☆☆☆

Perri wasn’t far behind:

“I’ve been to immersive theatre before (actually in Hollywood) and enjoyed it immensely; not this time. After mucking about from room to room, my sweetheart and I looked at each other through the ugly grey masks, and went for the Exit, fresh air, and a cold drink.” ☆☆☆☆

But Frankie says quitting is for, uh, quitters:

“One tip I’d give is don’t panic. And stay till the end (that’s two tips), if you don’t see something for the first thirty minutes it will be along soon, that’s why it’s up to three hours long. So if you’re impatient and like being spoonfed forget it. Seriously, you’ll only be getting in the way!!”  ★★★★★

 Fortunately, even the unimpressed could admire the set design:

“One star – for the set.” 

“If it’s your first Punchdrunk show, then go – you will love the amazing sets, the sense of adventure and the creepiness. If you’ve been before, you may find yourself a bit bored.”

“I’d consider it an irritating, condescending waste of time and money – unless you’re willing to pay the ticket price to see an impressive set.”

“If you like rummaging around flea markets, or memorabilia and vintage paraphernalia gets you going, the sets will blow your mind.”

While the dancing couldn’t have split opinion any further:

“The dancing was really poor. Lots of emo drama-rama school types doing lots of overacting and bad dancing. Tragic.” ☆☆☆☆ rik

“The dancing some of the best I have ever seen – so athletic and beautiful.” ★★★★★ George

“Choreographed movement is the main vehicle used by the performers to convey the action but the paltry snatches on offer veered twixt gratuitously violent or overplayed voyeuristic, united by the common outcome that it was all just hackneyed at best.” ★★★☆☆ Iris

“The real star is the dance. I’m surprised that they never get reviewed by dance critics – the fact that this is by far the most impressive dance piece they have created is ignored. That’s sad when it’s such a large part of the experience.” ★★★★★ Paul

In conclusion, then:

“Lack of dialogue, lack of direction, sweaty masks, awful finale.” ☆☆☆☆ Rashed

“Best show in London by a mile.”  ★★★★★ Alan

“Disappointing, cliche, confusing. Not even successful as a ‘spectacle’.” ☆☆☆☆ Harriet

“All-encompassing, absorbing, mind-blowing.” ★★★★★ Charlotte

“I was bored. It was pretentious and indulgent. Punchdrunk should do Emperor’s New Clothes next.”  ☆☆☆☆ Phil 

“This show works on so many levels; visceral, sensual, intellectual. Go go go!” ★★★★★ James B

And perhaps most honestly:

“I like that I got the chance to find out if I like walking around and earning my entertainment (I don’t) or prefer having it brought in front of me where I sit comfortably with ice-cream (I do).” ★★★☆☆ MissP

Have you been to see the show? Leave a review on our listing!

Going soon? Peruse these seven cryptic tips on making the most of it, from the show’s creator.

Or leave a review anywhere on our site, and a trip to New York City could be yours! Details here.

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