The American family were recently in town, which means business for the Ps. We get our shit together, avoid excuses about imaginary friends/jobs and hang out. We decided the location would be the National Theatre’s Punch Drunk – The Drowned Man.
I’d heard a lot about Punch Drunk. My sisters had come home from a few of them over the years shaking with excitement/fear. I could never really understand the concept, and on arriving at the enormous warehouse building in Paddington, I could see it was going to be impossible to describe…
However, I’ll give it a go. On walking in, you are given a small playing card, which has a different plot on each side. A mask is then plonked on your face and you’re transported into a lift. A woman starts to tell you about some of the characters you are about to find. She then chucks you into the spectacle, where you become a hybrid of actor and spectator. The building is full of people acting out various plots which you can choose to follow or ditch. I only seemed to get a look in on one of the plots from the playing card. I am not sure why that was… perhaps that is just the way I was taken? Or the plot I was attracted to?
I don’t want to give away too much as it will spoil it, and this is something you have to do.
All I will say is I was led through various scenes – witnessing murder plots, fights, orgies and just shit loads of weird stuff. I was constantly exhilarated. It’s like you are walking in on something you shouldn’t. Again and again. I’m a big fan of feeling like an intruder; being invited is a bit of a turn off. I wasn’t even invited into the world, just came on in. (i.e. I was a mistake – admittedly one that got my commitment-phobe dad down the aisle)
At one point my sister whispered that I wasn’t running after the characters enough. So I took things into my own hands and immersed myself into something that was deeply awkward. There was a very short man holding his penis and rubbing his naked body against an actress. She began to run away, and he started chasing her. I decided to go running after him, only for him to turn around seconds later. His naked bod was rubbed up against me, and his penis was sort of slapping against my leg. I shrieked and ran like a pathetic coward. I just wasn’t expecting naked action in the theatre…
At the end of hours of punch drunking, you are all led into one room, where the stories come together. Things start to make sense. Okay – not quite sense, but something. It is spectacular.
However, my legs were aching by this point and I was starving. It had started at 7 and it was nearing 10. I’m not entirely sure why they make it so long. I think it definitely could’ve been half an hour shorter. It would also encourage people to booze in the bar, as they wouldn’t be so desperate for sleep/food.
I guess you could always hit the bar before… but not if you’re like me. I have terrible FOMO (fear of missing out) Every time I followed one plot/person I was so anxious that someone would be doing something more dramatic/cooler somewhere else that I’d start to twitch. This, on a couple occasions meant that I was left without any drama and was desperately seeking some out, like a junkie.
Luckily, Punch Drunk ensure that every room is filled with objects and detail so whether there’s an actor/actress about or not, you can still try and piece together the twisted story…
The rooms even smell – they’ve really sorted out all your senses. What can you do? Only get fully immersed… Until, woops! Suddenly you’re having sex.