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Punchdrunk unveils major new collaboration with National Theatre

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Award-winning immersive theatre specialists Punchdrunk have announced a major new collaboration with the National Theatre that will premiere in a yet-to-be-named central London venue in the summer.

Titled The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable, the show is inspired by Georg Büchner's unfinished 19th-century play Woyzeck, and will open on 20 June 2013.

Speaking to Whatsonstage.com, Punchdrunk artistic director Felix Barrett said: "It's an incredible play, which has been a complete passion of mine for many years. I've done it twice before, in much smaller forms, including for my graduation piece at University which was the production that invented the Punchdrunk ruleset."

He described Woyzeck as the "perfect Punchdrunk play", adding: "Whatever order you see the scenes in, there is always this kind of cumulative power behind it and the conclusion is still really inevitable. You never really know what you're going to see and you're never going to see the same sequence. But it's all there in the text."

The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable is set in a Hollywood studio populated by "dreamers who exist at the fringes of the movie industry". Involving a company of over 30 performers in a building comprising 200,000 square feet, it will be Punchdrunk's biggest project to date.

'Soft launch'

A 'teaser' extract of the show is currently being staged in a shop on Kingsland Road in Dalston, though this will not be the actual venue. Participants, many of whom stumble in by accident, are taken down to a basement and read an extract from the play by actor Timothy Block (pictured), before being handed a charm to use in the show itself.

Regarding the venue, Barrett is remaining tight-lipped, but told Whatsonstage.com it's a large, disused indoor space in Zone One. "It's quite amazing," he added, "we're delighted to have found it. We saw it for the first time about three years ago and we failed to land it at the time, but it's come back."

He said the idea behind the Dalston event was to "soft launch" the project. "The shop space is designed so that a guy can just pass by with his umbrella and come in and not know it's a show, and then get sucked into it."

Formed in 2000, Punchdrunk's acclaimed promenade productions include Faust, The Masque of the Red Death and The Duchess of Malfi. Their most recent show was The House Where Winter Lives at Discover in Stratford last year.

The National Theatre collaborated with Punchdrunk on Faust in 2006 and supported their co-production (with BAC) of The Masque of the Red Death, though The Drowned Man marks their first major co-production with the company.

"We all knew that we wanted to work together again and the space was right and the idea was right," said Barrett. "So finally the stars aligned and here we are. We're absolutely thrilled to be working with the National again."

Tickets for The Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable go on sale at 9am on Friday (22 March 2013). Based on previous evidence, demand for tickets is likely to be extremely high.


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