• AVIROOP ROY

PUNCHDRUNK



I think that people are looking for something very different in theatre these days, I think they're quite tired of sitting rather politely in neat rows on plush velvet seats. And I think that

shows like files give them the opportunity to actually own a production and feel that they have an involvement in the production in a way that traditional theatre really can't. This performance of Faust produced in conjunction with the National Theatre takes place in an abandoned warehouse in London's East End over five dark floors. The tale of Faust originated in Germany it tells of a man who sells his soul to the devil in exchange for magical powers and secret knowledge. The most popular version was published in 1808 by German theorist poet and novelist Johann Wolfgang Goethe for the creators of this latest production the themes explored in Faust have a particular resonance.




Today in the celebrity-obsessed culture we live in, with the youth growing up aspiring to be like their floozy idols they read about in hit magazines and they're so desperate to get their 15 minutes. All they want is their fame, they would sign their souls to to get absolute power as I said outside the conventions of traditional theatre the audience are left to explore the performance space by themselves and at their own pace. A general audience member would enter a very strange building and given a mask and then the audience member is just free to roam through the spaces, they're free to encounter characters, take notice of the smells of the environment that they're in. The freedom given to the audience is central to the production company's philosophy punch-drunk are earning a reputation of producing performances that dismiss the conventions of traditional theatre. I can't rejected conventional theatre in that the etiquette and the rules seemed very audience friendly and it's all about the audience they are the centre of what we create. The masks that the audience have to wear are an integral part of the performance the masks just serve so many purposes but they democratize the whole experience. Everyone wears a mask so you're part of a set, so you're not aware of the person next to you and what they're doing. Because they're the same as everybody else, also it gives a sense of anonymity so even if you come with your loved ones you can't recognize them immediately.




So and you can't see how they're responding and you don't worry about them so it means you act for yourself. You do what you want to do and it becomes quite selfish, you become the voyeur and you carve out your own route through an evening. If I'm looking at a scene acting and there's a whole lot of audience around you they fill in the picture they're not a detraction they actually add to it with the story of Faust played out for the numerous sets. The audience will only discover pieces of the story as they move through the floors in order to get the best out of this production you have to treat it as though this is a show for you and you alone and go where you feel that the story is going to take you. I think the danger of this is that it is perfectly possible that you could be in one place and nothing is going on, five minutes after you've left that particular space suddenly all the action. That starts happening I think a lot of the time you feel like you're just observing something that's going on around you almost as if you stepped into a movie. It feels like a very different experience from anything else and there is apparently [Spoilers] one particular scene where you walk into a room where in fact you know again it may initially be empty and then just a few minutes later you come back to the same room and there's a full-scale 1950's high school. You are invited as members of the audience, you're actually drawn into the action and become part of the dance if you want to it's really up to the the audience member to decide how they want to play it with the mask on. They've got a sort of safety net so they are totally empowered because they can blend in to the crowd but it's really up to the audience, whether they choose to use these tools as an advantage or not. What will happen to one audience member won't be exactly the same experiences what happens to another audience member and members of the cast certainly seem to be very keen to actually interact with the audience for most of the actors this style of performance is a unique experience for them as well. I've never seen a show where the audience is so close and offers challenges to actors on a nightly basis. Almost feels like a well directed Improv show, though it feels like an oxymoron, it tends to feel like it. Once the production starts, every member of the cast will be performing for the entire three hours, it's a tough show it's three hours of moving acting being in a cols building and they can't lose their presence or their focus they get no downtime and if they need to go to the loo they have to you know they run the risk of the audience following them into the toilet. (which is absolutely hilarious if I do say so myself)



In this particular production, punch drunk turns these five floors of the warehouse into a complete installation into a complete environment it is absolutely like stepping into a parallel universe there's always as much detail in the design and the sound and the lighting which are fused together to create the installations as much as the action themselves.

The show has frightening moments where you can often find yourself to be in an entire fir tree forest and you're there all on your own and then you're suddenly aware that somebody else is in the room with you and you don't know whether in fact it's another member of the audience or if it's in fact an actor, the darkness of the rooms are given a lot of importance.




The principle being that if you can see in the distance what you're heading towards then where's the thrill of actually arriving there. The whole piece is based on tension and suspense and danger I think it's a show in which the more that you are prepared to put into, the more that you will get out of.