Punchdrunk’s first proper large scale immersive show in London since 2010 has been hugely anticipated. The Drowned Man is set in a vast building in Paddington of 200,000 sq ft of space over multiple floors. The audience is deposited at different floor at random to start their exploration. The background is that the building is a Hollywood studio complete with different set for different movies. The theatrical action takes place across the building and the audience has the choice of exploring the building, following a storyline or even a specific actor. It may be confusing for first time Punchdrunk participate but the variation and self-guided nature of the show means everyone comes out with a different experience and narrative.
Personally, it takes 2 hours to explore most of the space and even then it is still hugely disorientating because of the dim lighting, the constant drone of the a background sound effect and the non-linear layout of the set. There are also potential secret passages, tunnels and mini mazes to negotiate. Most of the action is mainly silent and more akin to physical theatre. There are larger set pieces which takes place throughout and also at the end. Most of the performers are excellent and also quite physically demanding. However, the space is so large that it is easy to miss the action unless one follows the actors once they are located. But it does give ample opportunities to rummage around all the vastly decorated rooms for information and clues.
There is a vast amount going on and I have ticket to go back at least four more times. This review shall be added to after each experience and may provide more information on it.