Tuesday, May 28

The Burnt City – Woolwich Works

Punchdrunk’s new piece directed by Felix Barrett and Maxine Doyle is an exhilarating immersive experience which has the epic feel of Greek tragedy fused with a modern electricity. Based on Agamemnon and Hecuba, the story follows the characters as the mythical world comes to life. Audience members enter an exhibition which suddenly lurches into this realm, where space and time feels suspended. We are free to follow whatever takes our interest as a multitude of scenes occur simultaneously across the different spaces. There isn’t a huge amount of audience interaction, but it is visually and mentally engaging throughout as you endeavour to piece together the plot and choose where to go.

For a venue with a plethora of different spaces, the set designed by Barrett, Livi Vaughan and Beatrice Minns has an incredible level of detail. The smaller rooms feel particularly intimate and meticulously designed, giving a real depth and mystery to the people who inhabit them and their world. In contrast, the furies’ playground is grand in its almost brutalist feel, creating room for the performers’ intricate movements. The neon backstreets of Troy are vibrant and pulsing, full of the buzz of nightlife.

Photo: Julian Abrams

The performers were all spectacular. Their vitality flooded the space, and they all fully embodied their individual characters without a need for words. They were emotively rich as their bodies told the story. Doyle’s choreography is stunning as the performers melt into each other and keep the piece fresh with sharp, swift transitions.

The costumes designed by David Israel Reynoso were superb, from the furies’ minimal metallic armour which sculpted the dancers physiques beautifully to extravagant garments.

The lighting designed by F9, Ben Donoghue and Barrett is central to this piece. The spotlights on emerging scenes direct the audience’s attention to them. Thunder and lightning are created through intense fractious bursts of light. Combined with Stephen Dobbie’s masterful sound design, it creates a cinematic effect that is dazzling and awe-inspiring to see in the flesh. The sombre, low tones throughout and the grand music simulate the sense of impending doom and the monumental epic feel of Greek mythology.

As a visual and sensorial experience, Burnt City is flawless. The plot was difficult to decipher at times, particularly for those who aren’t familiar with the stories they are based on and due to the fragmented narrative that arises from choosing to follow different people. Nevertheless, this maze of a piece is extremely inventive in every capacity and the performers are gripping in their intensity.

Booking until 4th December 2022.

Reviewer: Riana Howarth

Reviewed: 21st April 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★