The Drowned Man (round 2)

Last Friday I went for round two (and sadly final round) of Punchdrunk’s ‘The Drowned Man’ write up here, for my own memory and anyone who is interested in that sort of thing!

The account of my first encounter is here:

I went to round two, after much deliberation with no plan. I decided that letting my nose and instincts guide me the first time served me well. And as I wouldn’t have the luxury of multiple visits to see everything I wanted to see, I felt I’d have a more enjoyable time just letting it happen. I had a few vague ‘wants’ some of which happened some didn’t, and as is the Punchdrunk way, some things I didn’t think I’d bother with, I did and they turned out to be the best parts!

I was in the first lift (I think? someone who was with me could probably correct…) for those keeping score, and wanting to know which cast member I’m talking about it was Friday 27th 5pm show.

One of my vague thoughts was to spend more time in the studio, but as I got out in town, I wandered through and came across William and Mary. With nobody else around having the scene all to myself seemed too good a chance to miss. I had them to myself, and almost to myself for a good fifteen minutes. In my first show, I’d chopped and changed between Mary, Miguel and William for my first loop so I made the decision to follow William for the whole first loop. I really enjoyed seeing the story I’d pieced together in my first show, entirely from one character’s point of view. And this version of William was also very different to the last, again the beauty of TDM repeat viewings. One thing began to amuse me, a fellow audience member clearly decided I knew what I was doing and started following me. Not only sticking to me like glue whenever I took off after William, as if I knew where he was going (I mostly had no idea) but also following me to wherever I stood in a scene, as if I had magical information about the best position. I hate to break it to you girl in the camouflage print shirt, I just like to be out of the crowd when I can…or there was just a tall person in front of me.

At the end of that loop I decided to take myself on a wander and see what happened. Making my way down the stairs from the desert, I decided to go all the way down to the basement. I’d set foot in the basement for all of two minutes last time, so I wanted to see some of it. I wandered a little around the big space (and I forget what order I stumbled across these scenes so forgive me) I cam across the Doctor and a woman who I think was the PA? (leopard print outfit, sexy and sassy?) watched their scene and wandered some more. I also came across Mr Stanford, on the phone, and then shredding a head shot, the scene where he says the line ‘I made the horse run, I can make it bolt; he scared the life out of me so I left him to it and wandered some more, poking about rooms like the Foley room and generally exploring.

I continued my wander a little longer, spending some time with the Gatekeeper as it was quiet in there! poked around his room a bit until Ramola arrived. I watched her scene in the office, where she types and followed her via the Doctor down to Mr Stamford in the basement. At which point I left them both-the combined crowds were a bit much and I wasn’t overly invested in either of them at that point, and feeling the heat I took myself off to Studio 3 for a break.

A personal observation at this point-which was about the mid-point of my show. Firstly, a similar thing happened last time I went. At about the same point in time I felt both tired, overwhelmed and a bit ‘done’. Last time I accidentally found studio 3, took the chance to re hydrate, sit, and have a bit of a time out before diving back in, at which point I was fine. Both times in fact the second half of my show has been better. I think maybe my mind needs time to adjust before enjoying it, something I’m sure would change had I been multiple times. This time something else came to my attention, there was no midway for me with TDM, either the expereince allowed me to toally lose myself in the world of Temple Studios, forgetting everything, or the silence, the isolation actually left me disconnected with my own (very loud) thoughts. I also learned a lesson in your own mental space being really important. Not that it could be helped but my poor head wasn’t in the greatest place on Friday, I’d had an epic meltdown at the station earlier, for long and boring reasons. And sadly my brain just wasn’t letting go. In a way I’m sad, almost heartbroken that my only second chance at TDM was ruined a little by outside things, and by my poor head being a mess. Anyway, I took myself off to the loos, had another little meltdown, put my mask back on and went back in. And, actually the second half of my visit I really enjoyed.

Due to everything above, I think I was feeling not lazy, but less inclined to rush about, see and do everything. I wandered into the town. One of my favourite things to do is to simply wander in the quiet space and have a poke around (I’m nosy what can I say?) so I was quietly doing that, minding my own business when the Dust Witch stormed past. Well, if old Dusty storms past you have to follow right? So I followed and watched her bathe Migeul. As it turns out, 1960s Hollywood Dust Witches have the same vile coloured burgundy bath that I used to have…but I digress. Leaving Miguel to dresss (and squelching my way out) I wandered a bit more and decided to take my lovely friend’s advice for having a bit of a breather and hang out in the drugstore for a while.

I wandered into the Drugstore just as the Drug Store girl was taking someone in for a 1:1 so I hung around and waited for her to come out. I spent the rest of the loop either with her or with Tuttle. My first introduction to Tuttle was when he used his hips to ‘bump’ me out of the way at the Drugstore counter (I genuinely hadn’t heard the door and he somehow sneaked up behind me) I had no idea he was Tuttle at that point,but a little while later I wandered over to his shop. As I arrived he was giving out jellybeans and had to lean over and around several toys to give me one commenting ‘Gee there’s a lot of you in here, I should start charging’ I confess I fell a little bit in love with this Tuttle (and I really wanted to hug him when the Gatekeeper chased him!)  I shared the rest of the loop between him and Drug Store girl (who gave me a lemonade, and later a little wide-eyed nod as I helped her pick up her postcards.) I actually felt I got the most out of this loop, by staying in the town/fountain area I got to see a lot of the comings and goings and felt a bit more a part of the ‘world’ by observing this one spot of it. That would be my advice to a person who hasn’t seen it, as much as picking one person gives you a story, picking one spot (as long as it’s a fairly busy one!) will give you another story.

I followed Drug Store Girl down to the murder, slowly, as I knew that’s where we were going and for my first show I’d been following Wendy for the final loop so had gotten a good look. I stayed back out of the crowds for the murder which ended up giving me an excellent front row view for the finale-before which I got a wink from the PA. After which I looked up and saw two arms held out to me-the Grocer took my hands and led me out, kissing my hands softly as he went. When we got to studio three he pulled me into a little dance, then pulled back and started into my eyes before kissing my mask and saying ‘thank you’ over and over. I muttered a ‘thank you ‘ or two to which he replied ‘no thank you’. And disappeared.

With a little fluttering or eyelashes and showing of my lipstick stained mask I was also allowed to keep it, which was an added bonus (but did look a bit odd on the train home to Cardiff)

So that was round two, and sadly the final adventure in Temple Studios. I wish I’d discovered the show sooner (or realistically had chance to go sooner) I’d never had made it as many times as some people but I feel for me 3-4 times would have been great. I feel like I got enough from my experience, but I know I’d have loved more. Sadly, this time it wasn’t to be. But it was still magical. I know that the experience isn’t for everyone, I know some of my theatre friends have their issues with the show. And with my critical hat on I could find them too. But for me, the experience, and the enjoyment of the time in the performance far outweighs that. And it’s so rare to find something like that. Although every theatrical experience is individual, there is something lovely about something so very individual, and so very unique to every audience member that enters those lifts.

Published by Emily Garside

Academic, journalist and playwright. My PhD was on theatrical responses to the AIDS epidemic, and I continue to write on Queer theatrical history. Professional nerd of all things theatre.

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