PUNCHDRUNK: THE BURNT CITY | London, One Cartridge Place

Multi award-winning immersive theatre company Punchdrunk have finally opened the doors to their much-anticipated new work, a sprawling warehouse space that spans the fall of Troy right through to Hades. Unlike previous productions, this is a wordless dance piece, made up of short, interpretative vignettes (Maxine Doyle), and no audience participation.

While the short dance pieces are well-performed (though not terribly imaginative), the real star of the show is the sprawling environment (Felix Barrett, Livi Vaughan, Beatrice Minns). At the start, we are led into what appears to be a straightforward museum exhibition about Schliemann’s discovery of Troy: as we continue through, the exhibition gets weirder and weirder until we realise we are no longer in a museum at all.

It’s worth noting that the hot, windowless promenade experience itself (lasting up to four hours, including queueing) is not comfortable. Currently, audience members must wear a surgical face mask for the entire duration, and over the top, a large, plastic face-covering mask, which does not fit glasses. At first, the constantly flickering, strobing lights (F9, Ben Donoghue, Felix Barrett) are not a bother, but by the end, it is headache-inducing, as is the perpetual bass rumble of booming, ominous music (Stephen Dobbie).

Ancient Greek storytellers knew how to keep an audience captivated, throughout the many hours of their epic tales: a mix of excitement and quiet, and an emotional push and pull. This production has an undeniable visual “wow” factor, but not much else.

Playing 22 April – 4 December 2022 in Woolwich Arsenal.

The Prickle - About transp