Punchdrunk are one of the most exciting and innovative companies working in contemporary theatre. Founded by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle in 2000, they create epic performances which blur the lines between actors and spectators. Masked audiences roam at will through the performance space, with each spectator following an individual path through the story.
Stepping through the door of 15 Ashton Road was to enter the ruins of a bomb-blasted city, where the survivors of the Trojan War are attempting to make sense of ten years of bloodshed. Clytemnestra (played by both Olivia Barnes and Imogen Morgan) is torn between loyalty to her husband and grief for her daughter; Agamemnon (Orlando Williams) is haunted by the violence he has witnessed; Orestes (Arthur Myrddin-Evans) is faced with an impossible choice between avenging his father and murdering his mother. Only Helen – beautiful, seductive and utterly selfish – emerges unscarred. Played with compelling poise by Annie Stocker, she rises above the morass of guilt, hatred and jealousy that surround her, secure that she will always be beloved.
The audience is plunged into the heart of the narrative. They may choose to follow a particular character, or piece together the story from a series of fleeting snapshots. A girl bathes her doll in a bathtub of blood. Party-goers gossip over martinis. A woman weeps over letters of condolence. A soldier hears his drill-sergeant in his dreams.
This was an extraordinary performance – all the more extraordinary as these students have only been working together since the start of term, and it was, for many of them, their first Shrewsbury production. As actors, this style is hugely exposing as the intimacy between actors and audience requires total focus and intensity, but it was a challenge that they carried off with aplomb. Congratulations.
Dr Helen Brown
Director of Drama
For a further insight into just how powerful, unsettling and compelling the production was, have a look at this trailer (if you dare!):