We discover what critics had to say about Punchdrunk’s latest theatrical experience based around the Trojan War.

(c) Julian Abrams

The Guardian: *** “those who are satisfied with spectacle above story will enjoy this meticulously crafted show. Those of us who come for meaty drama and narrative momentum may leave hungry.”

Evening Standard:**** “As in previous Punchdrunk shows, founder Felix Barrett and his co-director and choreographer Maxine Doyle rely on bold, elegant, wordless movement and a marrow-curdling soundscape for a powerful evocation of mood. Stephen Dobbie’s score blends thunder, keening and wrenching chords to devastating effect.”

WhatsOnStage: *** “The Burnt City is their biggest show yet. Over two buildings and 100,000 square feet in Woolwich, south-east London, they are tackling the epic story of the Trojan War, devoting one building to Greece and one to Troy. It is an astonishing act of bravura drama-making, shot through with unforgettable images and striking scenes, and yet it left me impressed rather than involved.”

Time Out: **** “Does it all add up to something? Does it have a message? Well, I think it’s an extraordinarily beautifully wrought tribute to the savage, doomy mysticism of Greek mythology. It probably has tangential echoes of the current war in Ukraine: a vibrant civilisation besieged by a shattered, exhausted, soulless superpower. But mostly it feels like a new monument to the power of its creators’ vision. After eight years away, Punchdrunk have returned, and they’re still awe-inspiring.”

iNews: *** “for a piece inspired by classical tragedy – specifically, Aeschylus’ Agamemnon and Euripides’ Hecuba – there’s a surprising absence of dramatic impact, and a lot that is confusing, ponderous or frustrating.”

Culture Whisper: **** “The second thing to know about the show is it’s not worth getting bogged down in trying to rationalise sequences or decipher what it all means. The illusive, dialogue-free, fragmented nature of The Burnt City can leave you feeling like there’s a wider meaning hidden in a drawer somewhere or dangling just out of reach. Instead, embrace the sheer quirkiness of it.”

City Am: “I did, however, leave with the nagging feeling that this is more of the same from Punchdrunk. Despite the new setting, there are elements that feel interchangeable with the company’s previous works, from the storytelling devices to some of the sets. I’d love to see a company with this much talent and budget really push into radical new territory. As it is, The Burnt City feels like a late-period work from a company happy to play to its strengths. Still, when the result is this good, it’s hard to complain.”

The Times: ** ” Imagine you are wandering round a huge, sparsely populated nightclub for three hours. If the in-crowd are to be believed, there is a wonderful party going on somewhere, but for some reason you never manage to find it, even though you pass through room after room. All you know is that it’s hot and airless (you’re wearing a Venetian carnival-style mask as well as a Covid face covering) and it’s not long before you seem to be going around in endless circles.

That, dear reader, was pretty much how it felt to be at the latest production from those immersive adventurers, Punchdrunk.”

The Stage: ***** “Punchdrunk’s Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle return to Woolwich with this richly designed, inventively choreographed immersive experience about gods and monsters.”

Broadway World: **** “Rather than charting much new ground, Punchdrunk seems to borrow here from its tried-and-tested formulas, running through them new stories and characters. This is not necessarily a bad thing, especially because the result continues to be, for the most part, stunning. That The Burnt City may ultimately fail to strike devout followers of Punchdrunk as a major advance for the company is much less about the work itself than the high expectations that have come to surround it. Still, that shouldn’t detract from the many, many virtues of this impressive production: teeming with moments that burn themselves into the mind, it is an exquisite nightmare you’ll be reluctant to wake from.”

To Do List: *** “Punchdrunk’s immersive Woolwich wonder, The Burnt City is a visually stunning secret dance delight but ultimately doesn’t capture your heart.”

London Unattached: “Heavily adapting the two classical Greek texts of ‘Agamemnon’ and ‘Hecuba’, this interactive piece of theatre and performance art is a sight to behold. As an audience, you are led from an exhibition of questionably ancient artefacts into a dream world seen through the eyeholes of tight-fitting witch doctor style masks. The form of a Punchdrunk play, now world-renowned, is to wander and explore through scenes and set pieces performed around you by roaming actors.”

Daily Mail: ** “In one of several boudoirs there was a bed covered in soft toy owls. What by the beard of Zeus is it all about? It’s not an evening with answers – or an interval. The cast judder to techno music in a thundering finale.”

The Telegraph: *** “This major new work by the immersive pioneers has some good ideas, but lacks the surprise of their greatest work.”

To find out more and to book tickets visit: https://www.punchdrunk.com/


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