sat 18/05/2024

Gallery: The Drowned Man of Punchdrunk | reviews, news & interviews

Gallery: The Drowned Man of Punchdrunk

Gallery: The Drowned Man of Punchdrunk

Stunning images from a new book celebrating the site-specific company's big Hollywood hit

Omar Gardon takes a dip in 'The Drowned Man'All photographs © Julian Abrams

Punchdrunk entered the world of theatre through a side door in the basement. The company navigated a strange path around abandoned warehouses on the edge of town, via the odd wrong turn and sundry culs de sac, and fetched up two years ago at an old Royal Mail sorting office next to Paddington station. It was here that they performed The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable.

The company has been going since 2000, but it was in Faust (2006), inspired by Edward Hopper’s images of alienation and set in a warehouse in Wapping, that they attracted their biggest plaudits and audiences so far. Later came The Masque of the Red Death at Battersea Arts Centre, and then, in collaboration with ENO, The Duchess of Malfi (an unmissable mess, according to theartsdesk) in a deserted pharmaceutical HQ near London City Airport. The concept was always the same. The audience, wearing white masks to distinguish them from roaming performers, wandered a venue of carefully prepped rooms, stairwells and corridors in search of an opaque, piecemeal, fragmented narrative, before being herded together for the showstopper. It always felt like trespassing into the heart of someone else’s broken world.

The Drowned Man was Punchdrunk’s breakout commercial hit. Inspired by Büchner's Woyzeck, it ran for a year during which 200,000 people moved around a four-floor playing area of 200,000 square feet, on which 40 actors played out a parable of Hollywood as both heaven and hell. For its next trick, Punchdrunk has commemorated the production in a book of images. Photographer Julian Abrams has captured the Punchdrunk ethic - both its explosive and intimate vitality and its obsessive attention to micro-detail. Browse this gallery of images for a taste.

  • The Drowned Man is published on 20 June and is available here

Click on the thumbnail images to enlarge

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