Thursday, 24 April, 2014

Published December 06, 2013
Do the London arts hop
From Japanese erotica circa 1600 to edgy street art, arts lovers headed for London this Christmas season will have their stockings full, writes HELMI YUSOF
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Cutting edge: The Drowned Man is an astonishing production that takes place on all four floors of a disused building in Paddington. - PHOTO: TRAVIS HODGES

BT 20131206 HYLONDON6A 863883

The Drowned Man

Temple Studios, 31 London Street, W2 1DJ

From now till Feb 2014 at various times

Tickets from

IN the 20-odd years that this writer has been watching theatre, he has never experienced anything quite as dreamy, mysterious and expansive as The Drowned Man by theatre troupe Punchdrunk.

The play is staged in a disused building near Paddington station in Central London. The entire four storeys have been converted into a dramatically-lit Hollywood movie studio where a story of ambition and murder unfolds.

But you won't be told the story in a straightforward fashion. And you won't really get to sit down and watch it either. You are made to wear a masquerade ball mask, cut yourself off from your companions (unless you choose to stay with them), explore the space on your own, and piece the narrative together.

In every room, painstakingly designed to evoke a certain bygone era, a set of actors play out hypnotic scenarios that ranges from the funny to the tragic to the flat-out creepy. Together, they tell the story of a young actor and actress who are willing to sacrifice everything - including their marriage - for a slice of Hollywood stardom.

You find yourself moving from room to room, almost in a daze, as the action takes place around you. Sometimes, if you're lucky, they burst into beautifully choreographed dance routines just inches from you. And because you're watching a live show in a movie studio setting, the lines between the actual and illusory, the story and the story they're filming, become very blurred.

Yet despite the fragmented nature of the scenes, the production is structured so ingeniously that you find yourself converging with other audiences for the play's stunning finale.

If you're looking for a stage production that gives you real bang for your buck, The Drowned Man would be it: for its standard ticket price of £47.50 (S$98), you get to watch all the action up close - instead of somewhere up in the circles had you opted for a similar-priced ticket to a hit musical.