Punchdrunk, the Immersive and Gothic Tourism

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review


In the last ten years, so-called immersive theatre has moved from the counter-cultural periphery of conventional theatre to the fashionable mainstream, as companies such as Slung Low, Shunt, Blast Theory, dreamthinkspeak, and Badac have demonstrated. Punchdrunk's trajectory since they launched their company in 2000 is perhaps the model example of the swiftness with which this form of theatre has taken hold in the business, their two most recent shows Sleep No More (New York premiere 2011) and The Drowned Man (London premiere 2013) finding mass commercial audiences on both sides of the Atlantic. Sleep No More, inspired by Macbeth, and a reinvention of an earlier 2003 Punchdrunk production, won the Drama Desk Award for Unique Theatrical Experience and garnered special citations for design at the 2011 Obie Awards. In their collaboration with the Royal National Theatre on The Drowned Man, Punchdrunk once more penetrated the heart of establishment theatre in England and its scale and initial cost outlay were, in some respects, more comparable to a West End or Broadway musical: the playing environment covered 200,000 square feet and there were 600 spectators per show with a cast that neared forty. On their website Punchdrunk articulates its intervention as "a game changing form of immersive theatre in which roaming audiences experience epic storytelling inside sensory theatrical worlds." Punchdrunk, it is claimed, "has developed a phenomenal reputation for transformative productions that focus as much on the audience and the performance space as on the performers and narrative"
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-18
Number of pages12
JournalAbout Performance
Publication statusPublished - 2017


  • Theatre, Gothic, Tourism, Performance


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