The Burnt City is an immersive theatrical performance by Punchdrunk. Punchdrunk have created their own style of theatre where they allow every single audience member to have their own unique experience. You wonder about their converted warehouse, either following characters or just moving to rooms wherever that may take you. They have created an incredible set where you truly feel you are walking about the back streets of Troy. The details are incredible- and truly can’t be described- you must experience this part for yourself.
The first part of the experience you are introduced to is their Peep Bar- a true Cabaret style experience. I slightly wish that there was more time amongst the experience to truly take this part in. Throughout the experience they had a live band and pair of Compères who bring a fabulous level of performance to the bar. You are then called in groups to begin the experience. This is where you are given a mask. Now as a glasses wearer I was initially worried about this part- but surprisingly the masks worked perfectly with glasses. The biggest annoyance of the masks was how hot they made you feel especially in the already hot warehouse. However, the fact that all audience members are wearing masks allows you to easily identify the actors.
The narrative is split into three parts- Greece, Troy and the Gods. The first part we were introduced to was Troy- where we see the death of Polyxena. It was quite a sight to be introduced to as the actress, Eléonore Cabrera, hung upside down half naked. The characters then quickly depart and run off- leaving you to decide who to follow and what part of the story you take on. This part of the experience took a little while to get used to as a first timer to Punchdrunk. I particularly enjoyed the performance of Emily Mytton as Queen Hecuba. The Gods had their own roles in the events that occurred and were intermeshed between the events that take place in both Greece and Troy. I found myself very much following the events of the characters within Troy, and it wasn’t until the very end that I even realised there was another warehouse where the story was occurring in Greece. This was when we were all ushered into this space for the grand finale.
I only wish that it was easier to navigate so that I didn’t miss out on one whole side of the experience. I can understand why people go back again- as there was still so much more to explore and see. My biggest criticism of the experience was how difficult it was to follow. I am very glad that I took the time to read the website ahead of attending, as their information on the characters and stories was key to getting the most from the performance. I like to credit myself with knowing a lot about Greek Myths and history but had I not read the website- I wouldn’t have been able to grasp the performance at all. The lack of speaking and focus on physical movement was incredible, but aided the difficult of grasping what was going on. It took me a long time to piece together who was who and how it all played together. By the time I had started to get used to the whole experience and what was going on, the experience was nearly over. I could have easily spent another couple of hours there.
I truly credit Punchdrunk on creating a fantastic experience that is genuinely immersive. I had a really fun and interesting evening- and I am definitely fascinated enough to consider attending future works by the company.
- Show title: The Burnt City
- Venue: One Cartridge Place
- Review date: Wednesday 19th July