Experiencing ‘Immersive Theatre’ in London

I always wanted to watch a show on Broadway in Newyork City, but never got time to do it, though I stayed few number of times just a block away from the Broadway Street. A month ago, Srikanth had told me about ‘Immersive Theatre” concept and about the show ‘Sleep No More” on Broadway. I had marked a mental note to experience it. However, just few days ago, we learned that Punchdrunk (a British Theatre company) is actually a pioneer of a form “Immersive Theatre” in which audience to is free to choose to watch in the play and where to go within the play, and that show is available in London just 20 minutes from where we were working & staying.In a typical Punchdrunk production, audience members are free to roam the performance site; in our case it was a 5 storewide building (located 4 min walk away from Paddington Tube Station). In immersive theatre format, we can either follow the performers and themes (there were two threads in our case), or simply explore the world of the theatre, treating the set as an art installation (and it indeed was). The play we attended was “The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Cable”. Sounds confusing. Join the club. It was for me too. Apparently, this format is related to ‘promenade’ theatre concept (Google for more).When we walked in, we were given a slip (each of side gave the gist of the stories we would be watching, as seen in one the snaps below), and a mask. We are required to wear the mask at all the time, and told not to talk. We were taken in an elevator where one of the actor from the play introduces the concept briefly, advises do’s and don’ts, and let us loose on to the floor. It is hard to recognize whom you are with, as everyone is wearing a mask. Srikanth and I got separated within 5 minutes of entering the floor. We were told that there would someone at each corner of the room, masked in black, but said, ‘They will only help, but would not guide”

I followed multiple characters in the play. Both the stories involve romance, infidelity, love, paranoia, delusion, and conclude by a murder. All the scenes involving love, romance, paranoia, infidelity, delusion, and situation leading to murder were intense. You surround the actors and play, as the act happens, but there wasn’t a single eye contact them from them to us. It appeared as if they were in their own world. Some of the act and dances were so fluid. In a situation where the actor goes through intense emotion and trauma, they do hold on to the nearest participant, seamlessly as part of the act. Entire set is quite dark, creepy, and sometimes weird and daunting. There were few places, I was the only one in the room / set / floor, as I loitered around, felt creepy, and quickly walked away and participated in the part of the act where there were few numbers of audience watching.

Still confused. Don’t blame you. I would have too, if I hadn’t been to the show. It took me an hour to figure out what’s happening in the act, and realized that it takes couple of visits to the show to actually see, appreciate and enjoy entire play.

Here are glimpses that I sourced from the net, which shows we saw and experienced.

 — atPunchdrunk

vinicius-salles-punchdrunk-the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable-photo-birgit-ralf-0290 tn-500_fable2 The-Drowned-Man_for-website_edited-12 pd_sophie-bortolussi-fionn-cox-davies-punchdrunk-the-drowned-man-a-hollywood-fable-photo-birgit-ralf-0192 New_20130709_TimeOut_Punchdrunk__MG_1636-Edit drowned_man_performer-paul_zivkovich_photo_perou 132598516_drowned_432639c 4215-mirandamaclettenpunchdrunkthedrownedmanahollywoodfablephotobirgitralf0102 _68827979_jane-leaney-(dolores-grey)-

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