Punchdrunk to stage major production in London this summer

Punchdrunk artistic director Felix Barrett. Photo: Simon Kane
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Immersive theatre company Punchdrunk is to join forces with the National Theatre this summer to present its biggest production to date.

The company will stage a promenade show in a “vast” disused building in central London with a 32-strong cast from June.

Inspired by German writer Georg Buchner’s play Woyzeck, Punchdrunk’s piece, called The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Fable, is set in a “seedy Hollywood underworld”.

The show will be led by Punchdrunk’s artistic director Felix Barrett and associate director and choreographer Maxine Doyle.

It is the first large-scale theatre production that the company has put on in the capital since it collaborated with Battersea Arts Centre in 2007 to produce The Masque of the Red Death. Other significant productions by the company include 2009’s It Felt Like a Kiss, with Damon Albarn, performed in a deserted Manchester office block, and 2006’s Faust, set in a five-storey building in Wapping.

Barrett said that, as in previous pieces, audience members will be masked and free to roam the space.

There will also be a ‘teaser’ for the piece in the form of a mini, five-minute show at a shop in Dalston. This will be non-ticketed and free to enter. The aim is for passers-by to discover it by chance, said Barrett.

“It is designed to be experienced by people who don’t know about Punchdrunk,” he said. “It’s for curious audience members who notice a new shop has opened in Dalston and want to have a prod around.”

Barrett added that he hopes people will use the clues in this short piece to search online afterwards, which will lead them to the production of The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Fable.

“Punchdrunk is about empowering the audience. The more curious they are, the more they are rewarded. For the [shop] audience, who are expecting nothing theatrical, to have a five-minute experience and be spat out at the other end of the space will be a microcosm of what the actual show will be like,” he said.

The Drowned Man – A Hollywood Fable, will run from June 20 to September 29 at a secret location yet to be announced