I realised this was going to be more than just a play but wow! I usually write about shows after I’ve seen them but this has already started. First there was the census to complete, then came a mask to print out. There’s a costume to make and now I seem to be involved in some sort of conspiracy, establishing a secret place to exchange messages. Even worse, my wife seems to be on the other side. Punchdrunk take note – this is real immersive theatre: I’m already immersed and I haven’t even reached the event yet. I’ll report on that when I get there at the weekend but it’s already become the theatrical event of the year.
This shows how good site-specific theatre can be. For around a third of the price of Punchdrunk’s mess, here is a tight courtroom drama set within an old courtroom (actually a tribunal hearing room, I believe). My heart sank as it started in much the way as The Drowned Man with someone leading groups of people up to the bar, then up to the courtroom. Once there, it could not have been more different. I heard one brief episode in a neighbouring room and missed some incidental chat but the main action took place in the courtroom itself and I missed nothing of the story. I was privileged to be the foreman of the jury but you can sit further back if you want – it is quite intimate so you won’t miss anything.
You can get a feel of how appropriate the set was from the photographs here and there is also a short trailer on YouTube. Based, like the film of the same name, on a 1958 book by Robert Traver (the pseudonym of a Michigan lawyer who based it on one of his own cases), the play by Elihi Winer was not completed until 1963 and I have a feeling that this brought its themes crucially closer to the issues of our own time. The cast are relatively young and inexperienced and I can only believe that they put in weeks of hard work to get this good – even the accents were convincing: I have sat on three juries and can vouch for the authenticity of this. I’d love to give high praise to the director but For Short. do not appear to work like that: under patrons Simon Russell Beale and Mark Rylance, they build the production through workshops, often with more experienced actors and directors. I do hope that the Punchdrunk team visit this and realise how well it can be done.
I’ve just fund there are tickets still available here. Don’t miss this one!
I had high expectations of this which were sadly not met. Subtitled a Hollywood Fable, Punchdrunk have created an amazing installation, a huge ex-sorting office turned into Temple Studios, in which a story is being acted. As some parts of the story happen in small spaces and the total audience is around 600, it means most people do not see most of the action. Other blogs have recommended following a specific character around but they moved too quickly for me to follow so all I got was glimpses. Some were very intense, e.g. a naked man being drowned/baptised/washed by a woman in a blood-red bath; others were banal. In all, I probably saw less than half an hour’s action in nearly three hours.
Punchdrunk had told us the performance ended at 8 p.m. so when a member of staff ushered us towards the ground floor at 7:45, we assumed we were being herded out and left. Asking why there were still so many bags at the compulsory bag check-in, the woman told us that the finale was taking place at that moment! I considered going back in but could probably not have seen it with that many people in front of, just as I hadn’t been able to see the last couple of things I had tried to follow. If you are young and energetic, willing to push us older people out of the way and follow the action then it may well be great; if not, save your money.