The Drowned Man (2013 play)

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The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable
The Drowned Man (2013 play) poster.jpg
Written by Punchdrunk (directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle)
Date premiered June 20, 2013 (2013-06-20)
Place premiered 31 London St, London
 United Kingdom
Original language English
Official site

The Drowned Man is an original theatre production by British theatre company Punchdrunk, in collaboration with the Royal National Theatre.


Set within the fictional "Temple Pictures", The Drowned Man was Punchdrunk's largest theatre installation,[1] covering 200,000 sq ft., catering for up to 600 audience members per show[1] with a cast of nearly 40.[2] The production falls within several genres of theatre, including so-called site-specific theatre,[3] promenade theatre,[4] interactive theatre[5] or immersive theatre.[1] The audience members, who are free to roam around the sets at will, wear white masks to distinguish themselves from the cast, and the narrative is communicated through a series of overlapping scenes blending the mediums of interpretive dance, contemporary dance and traditional acting.[3] The show opened June 2013 and tickets run until 6 July 2014.[6]

Temple Pictures[edit]

Temple Pictures is the name of the fictional Hollywood film studio which forms the setting and backdrop of the production. It is physically located at 31 London Street, London, next to Paddington Station, occupying 4 floors of the building that was previously the Royal Mail sorting office.[2] It is described within the fiction as the British outpost of major Hollywood studio Republic Pictures around the time period of the 1960s.[3] The various sets and locations within the building represent internal and external locations both within Temple Pictures and also the outskirts of the town near which it is situated. The various locations include a desert, a saloon, a trailer park, a chapel, as well as several dressed sound stages and a Lynchian black and white chequerboard dancefloor.[3][7][8] As in previous Punchdrunk shows, the audience is free to roam around and explore the sets in their own way,[2] and the intricate detailing of the props and locations assists the audience in picking up the threads of the narrative.[9]


Creative Director Felix Barrett has said that The Drowned Man is "the first time that we've played with the idea of more than one lead narrative".[3] The two main narratives form mirrors of each other, one following the story of a couple within Temple Studios and the other a couple who live on the outskirts of the Hollywood town.[10] The main characters play out a tragic love story, with the numerous supporting characters embellishing the detail of that story as well as having some independent side-stories of their own.[3] Many aspects of the narrative draw influence from Georg Buchner's famous unfinished play Woyzeck, including the main themes of murder, madness and adultery.[11] However, the work also draws on several other sources for inspiration, including Nathanael West's (1939) novel The Day of the Locust[1] and Ray Bradbury's (1962) novel Something Wicked This Way Comes.

Critical reception[edit]

Professional ratings
Review scores
Source Rating
The Independent 3/5 stars
The Daily Telegraph 5/5 stars
The Financial Times 5/5 stars
The London Evening Standard 4/5 stars

Several reviews have complimented the scale of the production and the ambitious use of multiple narratives, whilst also commenting that the scale can at times make the experience feel fragmented and difficult to follow.[4][9][12] However, the majority of official media reviews were written at the beginning of the show's run in June 2013, and since that time several important changes have been made to improve the audience's understanding of the story, including handing out slips of paper with a brief outline of the plot at the start.[10] Time Out magazine awarded the production 3 out of 5 stars, commenting that "as pure spectacle, Punchdrunk are now operating on a level that makes criticism basically redundant. But in terms of straight-up theatre, they have made better".[7] The Independent commented "For all its logistical flair the show is lacking in heart", awarding it 3 out of 5 stars[12] The London Evening Standard gave it 4 out of 5 stars, commenting "abandon all preconceptions of what theatre should be and prepare yourself for a multi-storey treat"[13] The Daily Telegraph awarded it 5 out 5 stars, asserting that "the masters of immersive theatre have returned with a show that will surely become a cult hit"[2] The Financial Times called it "Thrilling - Punchdrunk’s newest ‘immersive’ piece is seedy, frightening and feels supremely alive", awarding it 5 out of 5 stars.[14]


Creative team[15] Role
Felix Barrett Director/Designer
Maxine Doyle Director/Choreographer
Livi Vaughn Designer
Beatrice Minns Designer
Mike Gunning Lighting Designer
Stephen Dobbie Sound Designer
Jack Galloway Costume Designer
Magnus Fiennes Music Director and Composer
John Van der Put Illusionist
Hector Harkness Associate Director
Conor Doyle Associate Choreographer
Fernanda Prata Rehearsal Director/Associate Choreographer


  1. ^ a b c d Andrew Dickson. "How Punchdrunk breathed life into The Drowned Man | Stage". The Guardian. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  2. ^ a b c d "The Drowned Man, Temple Studios, review". Telegraph. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f Masters, Tim (2013-07-19). "BBC News - Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man is theatre on a grand scale". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  4. ^ a b Gardner, Lyn (2013-07-19). "Does Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man live up to the hype? | Stage". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  5. ^ Richard Godwin (2013-06-28). "Interactive theatre group Punchdrunk’s new show The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable - Theatre - Going Out - London Evening Standard". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  6. ^ "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable | A Punchdrunk production at Temple Studios". Retrieved 2014-04-11. 
  7. ^ a b "Punchdrunk: The Drowned Man | Temple Studios | Time Out London". 2013-07-17. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  8. ^ Brantley, Ben (July 23, 2013). "In a Shadowy Maze, Reality Can Get Lost ‘The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable’ in London". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  9. ^ a b Gareth Noon (2013-08-12). "Review: Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man is a heady brew of sex and menace | Metro News". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  10. ^ a b Healy, Patrick (August 7, 2013). "A London Troupe Thrives With Ambitious Free-Range Theater In London, Punchdrunk’s ‘Drowned Man’ Has Audiences Roaming". The New York Times. Retrieved 20 November 2013. 
  11. ^ "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable | A Punchdrunk production at Temple Studios". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  12. ^ a b Paul Taylor (2013-07-18). "Theatre review: Punchdrunk's The Drowned Man- 'For all its logistical flair the show is lacking in heart' - Reviews - Theatre & Dance". The Independent. Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  13. ^ Fiona Mountford (2013-07-18). "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, Temple Studios - theatre review - Theatre - Going Out - London Evening Standard". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  14. ^ Gilmour, Alexander (2013-07-19). "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, Temple Studios, London". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 
  15. ^ "The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable | A Punchdrunk production at Temple Studios". Retrieved 2014-02-24. 

External links[edit]