NT Supports Punchdrunk's New Promenade FaustDate: 20 July 2006
Punchdrunk, a theatre company that specialises in site-specific promenade productions, will be supported by the National Theatre in its new version of Faust this autumn. Punchdrunk joins Shunt in the list of innovative theatre companies championed by the flagship South Bank institution under the artistic directorship of Nicholas Hytner.
Since its association with the NT, Shunt has reclaimed a 70,000 square-foot labyrinth of railway arches under London Bridge railway station, christened it as the Shunt Vaults and presented its shows Tropicana and Amato Saltone there (See News, 27 Oct 2005).
Punchdrunk’s Faust, based on the themes and characters from Goethe’s epic 18th-century morality tale Faust and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, will be performed in a vast abandoned warehouse in Wapping Lane, near Tower Bridge, where it runs for a limited six-week season from 17 October to 18 November 2006 (previews from 10 October).
The piece, which includes a large cast, live music and choreography, allows audience members to wander round the building and take in as much of the story as they choose, following particular characters or simply soaking up the atmosphere. The National has lent rehearsal space to Punchdrunk for Faust rehearsals, and has also been offering creative advice to the company, which was founded in 2000.
Punchdrunk’s acclaimed 2005 show, The Firebird Ball, directed by Felix Barrett and produced by Colin Marsh, was a promenade version of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet transported to a disused London factory.
NT associate director Tom Morris told Whatsonstage.com: “Nick Hytner and I went to see The Firebird Ball. I actually went twice. The first time I wandered around in this warehouse for two hours and I kept glimpsing extraordinary and mysterious things and had a wonderful time. I came out, met the director and realised I’d missed most of the show, so I went back and spent another two hours there and still didn’t see everything that was going on. There’s something very extraordinary not only about the quality of the work I’d seen but also about the fact it’s the kind of work that you can really explore as a member of the audience. It is so rich that you can see a tiny bit of what’s on offer and come away fascinated and excited.”
Morris continued: “We agreed we would get involved in helping introduce this extraordinary work to a wider audience in a way that’s similar to the way we work with Shunt. When Nick was appointed artistic director, he said he wanted to be able to investigate both words in the term ‘National Theatre’ and this is part of that. We have been on hand to advise Punchdrunk during rehearsals – but they are the masters of this type of theatre so we don’t intervene unless they ask us to.”
Faust is an indoor, promenade performance throughout, lasting three hours in two continuous cycles of 90 minutes. On admission, audience members embark upon an individual journey and may stay inside the performance for as long as they wish. Most recently used as a document storage archive, 21 Wapping Lane is the last undeveloped site in the original Tobacco Dock. Ballymore Properties has donated use of the building, prior to redevelopment.
- by Caroline Ansdell & Terri Paddock