** SPOILER ALERT. If you intend to see this play, please dont read. **
Last night, Maxyme, Camille, Sébastien and I attended the Drowned Man: A Hollywood Fable at the National Theater of London. It would be hard to describe the experience other than it’s something I had never experienced before. Imagine going in a dark room, only to follow a path of red lights leading you to an elevator. Everyone wearing the same mask. The idea is to get lost and live a unique experience, guided only by the choices you make. The play takes place over 4 different level. Doors are either open or closed forming some sort of ever changing maze. The actors evolve within the maze and you decide which one you want to follow. Some rooms are open, others closed. The lights change opening up new paths, closing others. You can roam around empty spaces sometimes only to be surprised as an actor walks in with a bunch of following spectators, ending up in the middle of the action. There are secret paths. Max even found a bottle of real Scotch and was able to drink on the house! What’s incredible is that you decide your point of view. You can leave a scene, walk in as a scene is in action.
The story takes place in a movie studio. The characters are all involved in the movie industry. They are sometimes movie actors and producers and other times in character. There is a plot, but it’s almost impossible to follow. In the end, you decide what you wanna see.
The performance is incredible. Sometimes fun, other times dramatic. Dance performances changing from cabaret to contemporary. You can be in the action or stand outside and look over from a window. I once ran up the stairs following a character and ended up walking in sand. The whole stage was in sand. Some other time, the lights close and when they reopen, it’s awfully dark and you have to follow a light leading you to a forest as a character is running away in panic. Very emotional. You never know what to expect. The art direction was impeccable. And all along, there are people around you living their own adventure, making their own choices. But somehow, they also become involved and are part of the choreography. No one will live exactly the same experience and go to the same places and through the same scenes.
It culminates in a grand finale on the bigger stage with all the characters gathering for the final scene… the wrap party. Then it becomes a party and we are lead to a room where people can have a drink and finally take off their mask to discuss their experience while a band plays songs from the era.
All and all a unique experience I am so glad I could share with Max, Camille and Sébastien during our short stay in London. I wish I could live it again, I wonder what choices I would make. Man, it so hard to put it into words. A grand illusion.