The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable

ColinHumphrey:, culture, exhibition, oxford, Temple Studios, immersive performance, the drowned man - a hollywood fable, 2013ColinHumphrey:, culture, exhibition, oxford, Temple Studios, immersive performance, the drowned man - a hollywood fable, 2013

Temple Studios, London, Until 31st December 2013, Suitable for 16+. 39.50 – 85.00 GBP, Punchdrunk.

About Punchdrunk

Founded in 2000, the Theatre Company creates totally immersive worlds of entertainment where there is no stage, boundary or division between actor and spectator. The narrative plays out and you become the camera. Punchdrunk invites you not only to explore the inaccessible world of theatre and cinema but pulls you in.


Apart from the protagonists everyone is masked and at all times absolutely no talking! Dramatic lighting creates an ambience of foreboding. The action can well up in a moment! Watch it or go explore some farther reach of the set – itself one big installation – the choice is yours. You literally are on the stage which comes alive. The actors fleet around some dance, some writhe together and some you can even interact with: I mistakenly thought one of the bars on set was ‘the bar’, one of the studio extras a barmaid kindly gestured I was not allowed behind it, and poured me some still lemon juice. An unsettling and interesting moment.

Personal Journey

The world exists and as in life what you experience depends upon the actions you take. There is no director calling cut, there may not even be a script per se. This journey of myriad timelines and causalities was singularly the most unique experience of any theatre performance I have had. One may imagine this as a novelty but for a company that’s been around for over a decade it may be here for some time yet. You are not confined to your chair as if clamped down awaiting a photograph taken by Louis Jacques Daguerre. Open a door here or walk into a hall there and you may happen upon some dramatic tension or principal cast members followed by a masked collective of spectators who seamlessly fade into the background and anonymity.

The Plot

William, Mary and Dwayne // Marshall, Wendy and Dolores. The names aforementioned separate into two timelines within the performance. These are essentially two love triangles in the first, Mary is already involved with William but also seeks affection with Dwayne in the second Marshall and Wendy are a couple and Marshall explores relations with Dolores. Of the Triangles – which are likely simultaneous – and the drama that unfolds one may witness some passion in the bedroom, nudity in the anatomical scene, Cavorting at the bar or some really sombre moments of angst and pain in the wooded areas.


The cast, actors and actresses were compelling. Whether at a distance or far away there was a strong sense of quality. Each one a credit to their art. Also the studio sets and scenes (akin to an installation) were so meticulous in the detail and homage to the period and genre those behind them also deserve praise and the sound was evocative without being overbearing. Of the show it left an indelible mark that will stay with you. If you ever wondered what time travel was like, how it might feel to be on a Holodeck and/or to be awake within a strange dream. The cost between 39.50 – 85.00 GBP, its well worth the money!


Somewhere between time travel, virtual reality and pure phantasmagoria. ‘The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable’ makes an indelible mark.

written by: Colin Humphrey

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