Starkest East London: Punchdrunk and ENO slug it out inside a drab modern building. The promenade kings in a site-specific collision with grand opera. This is high-risk drama: could be great art or car crash. Immersive theatre merits an immersive review, so dip in anywhere.

…Shortcut for Punchdrunk regulars: The Duchess of Malfi starts like It Felt Like a Kiss, motors like Faust and ends like Masque of the Red Death writ large. We’re back to resin masks and DIY storytelling…

…We burrow into early rooms filled with computers, notebooks and detritus. Modern research labs with mock treatises on porphyria and lycanthropy (ah yes, Ferdinand; we mustn’t forget that John Webster’s play lurks here somewhere). Eerie noises but no live music yet…

…Rooms distort progressively as we’re tugged into the Jacobean past, even though we’re always aware of the monolithic present in this dead carcass of a building. The Cardinal of Aragon (Freddie Tong) presides against the backdrop of a great glass elevator…

…The herd instinct takes over. Wherever two or three are gathered together a scene must be imminent. Audience masks are white, those of the orchestra black; but if you stalk the instrument cases, prepare to be misled. A jumble-sale mentality sets in when a scene begins. Lots of six-footers in tonight, alas. They like to be near the front…

…Frustrating to see empty locations and know I’ve missed something significant. Whole episodes pass me by, yet my evening is brim-full. What happens on that four-poster bed? I’ll never know. Impossible to piece together Webster’s story from such fragments; make sure you know it first. But that’s not the point. This is an impressionistic experience, not a literal one. Treasure those gaps…

…Standard Punchdrunk choreography from Maxine Doyle. Lots of balletic humping, lascivious acrobatics and violent bodywork. Several characters dance their way up plate glass windows this year - an innovation…

…Claudia Huckle suffers splendidly as the Duchess, her rich contralto untroubled whether flung about (courtesy of Ms Doyle) or strung up by the ankles. She is matched by the disturbing counter-tenor of naked, bloodied Andrew Watts (Ferdinand) and by the sinister baritone of Richard Burkhard as the assassin, Bosola. Alas, I fail to catch Julia Sporsén (the Cardinal’s mistress) for more than the odd moment…

…Torsten Rasch’s score is at one with the environment: the collision of worlds old and new, the fractured narrative, the haphazard whole.  His style seems predictable at first – Berg-inflected modern music of the old school – but its true colours emerge layer by layer, shards from an aural prism, culminating in an orchestral climax of depth and opulence during director Felix Barrett’s grand finale, whose ultimate flourish ‘twould be a sin to disclose…

…I spot the Cardinal again, this time alone by his pulpit. No one else around. He leads me to a side room and locks us both in. Like the jackdaw I sit in the Cardinal’s chair while he removes my mask and sings to me of Hell. Full-on, a capella, one-on-one opera. He places my hand on his skull, then on his heart, and I feel the visceral resonance of that great bass-baritone emerging from his whole body. A chilling moment shared by no one else. We are complicit in events to come, he whispers to me at the end. If only I could have seen them all.

- Mark Valencia