The Drowned Man**** (National – Temple Studios, 23 July 2013)

Posted: July 24, 2013 in Theatre

A collaboration between the National and immersive theatre leaders Punchdrunk, this event took place in a disused Royal Mail sorting office in Paddington, re-named Temple Studios. Taken back in time to the late 1950s/early 1960s, I hid behind a grotesque mask to be plunged into semi darkness and allowed to wander at liberty around the sets, offices and back stage areas of a Hollywood studio; I must have looked like a kid in Hamleys. Spread over four floors, with hidden rooms and passages everywhere, I regularly bumped into performers (the ones without masks) who were enacting, mostly in dance, a torrid story of love, infidelity, jealousy and death, knowing that, for everything I saw and every place I found, there would be a dozen things I missed. So, there seemed little point in trying to follow the story, only in exploring the place and enjoying the performances as they cropped up. The adventure was accompanied throughout by atmospheric film background music and American pop songs from the period. Finally after 3 hours, drained of sweat and nursing a badly bruised shin (failure to get out of the way of a dancer quickly enough), I emerged into the real world in awe at the scale of it all and wondering whether or not to go back for what would be an entirely different experience next time.

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