Punchdrunk in Manchester

It Felt Like A Kiss
It’s hard not to be a fan of Punchdrunk. The Masque of the Red Death and Faust rank as two of the most interesting theatrical events of the last few years. In fact, it is difficult to find anyone who didn’t pile on hyperbole after hyperbole after hyperbole (although there is always one, isn’t there?) after seeing these incredible site-specific productions, focused less (much less) on narrative than on immersiveness and attention to detail.

The truly superb thing about these two productions was the extent to which they seemed personal. Everybody emerged with a different story, a different path through the Punchdrunk experience – “I was dragged into a room where a nurse made me take off her dress”, “I was given three human teeth and told not to tell anyone”, “I saw two people throwing books at each other and for some reason was the only person in the world who didn’t manage to have a good time” – and as such those few hours in Wapping or Battersea felt irreplaceable, unrepeatable, something to share and explain and remember.

Which is why it felt like almost an absence when the group announced, after the superb, stunning success of Red Death (sold out for months at the Battersea Arts Centre), that they were disappearing, “immersed in an extended period of research and artistic and organizational development.”

But fear not, because it seems Punchdrunk are back. Manchester International Festival has announced that Punchdrunk’s new production, It Felt Like a Kiss, will appear at Hardman Square from 2-19th July. Telling the story of “America’s rise to power in the golden age of pop, and the unforseen consequences it had on the world and in our minds”, this production, unfolding across five floors and with original music by Damon Albarn, promises to be incredibly exciting.

Punchdrunk make the sort of theatre that people will talk about for years. Without wishing to be pushy, it’s worth trying to be one of those people. Three line whip, buy your tickets now.