It’s bright being a star


Starting a show by visiting Studio 5 was always a lottery You never knew quite what (or who) you’d find. There may be a rendition of Bulldog, albeit with Dwayne and Andrea missing; or a few characters huddled, quietly chatting; or just Claude, sat, reading a newspaper at the dressing table.

Sometimes, it would just be you and the set, and a silent black mask stood by the door as you pretended to be intensely interested in the shrine to their left before scuttling off to your next destination as if you always meant for it to happen that way.

But, if you were really lucky, there would be Frankie. Just Frankie. Standing alone on the stage. Fixing you with a blank stare before chasing the ghosts of Alice and Claude down the stairs.

And this descent? This was one of my favourite ways to start a show. There was something so intensely threatening about discovering the dark corridors of the basement all over again in his wake. His cries of “Hello?” echoing between the walls and along the spot-lit stretches outside the Temple room.

He’d be half cocky, covering up his nervousness with occasional bursts of that laugh. Each light giving him an opportunity to pause, his bravado slipping to reveal that he was just as unnerved by this place as any first-time visitor to the Studios. And there was that time his eyes fell on me and he stumbled over his own feet, yelping in surprise - whilst I jumped a mile in the other direction.

The empty expanse of chequered floor, air thick with smoke, low lighting. Nobody around. Except the to figures laid out, face down in front of the mural. Seeing them through Frankie’s eyes in that moment was always to see them for the first time. They’re not… real? Are they?

He hovers over one, building up the courage to nudge it with his foot. Then… nervous relief. The laugh again. Ringing out across the space. Him looking up, to meet the gaze of a solitary masked figure beckoning him to the main room. Waiting. Silently. Expectant. Chilling.

That first initiation each night - Frankie starting out with charm and some kind of gratitude at meeting the boss. Before being dragged along the floor, beaten with bats, an orange forced into his mouth. The spurt of juice into the air as he struggles to breathe. Stanford holding his nose.

Then pleading, stumbling and the horror as he finds a gun pointed into his face. BANG. No confetti this time round.

As the initiation masks are removed and his tormentors break into laughter. He pretends he’s alright. It might even be funny. Except it’s clear he’s broken. The price of being in the spotlight. 

Taking a deep breath out in the corridor and dragging himself up the stairs back to Studio 5. The look on Romola’s face as he sends her on her way to Stanford, voice thick with warning. Back at the dressing room table, swigging from a bottle of champagne, sunglasses on. His mood deepens. He snaps at the Seamstress. “It’s bright being a star”.

It’s only when Wendy and Andrea show up that he remembers he has a part to play. He’s going to be a star, right? “You’re my wife Wendy!”, “Don’t try to stop me!” as he falls through the window, onto the bed. “Andrea! You’re hot! Like a fire raging in the sky!”. He barks. 

He’s desperate to get this right. His patience with Wendy paper-thin, but all smiles and sparkling eyes to the camera. He’s performing.

Then, there’s Claude. Predatory, slithering. Just plain commanding.

And Frankie crouched in the window frame, shirtless, one arm raised above his head, lit from behind. Eyes smouldering. But he just looks like a child, playing at seduction. 

Then there’s the chase. Frankie skipping ahead, to stand arms wide in front of the shrine. Against the wall at the bottom of the first set of stairs, his head ducking out from underneath Claude’s arms. Sprinting ahead before letting Claude catch him at the top of the final flight.

He beckons him, dares him to try again. But that empty stare as Claude starts to lick, or kiss, or bite his face betrays any notion that this is a harmless game.

Then it’s through the double doors at the base of the stairs. The complete discomfort in stepping into that slim corridor to be immediately faced by a full blown, animalistic ‘kiss’ - any chance of it coming across as sexy destroyed as Frankie’s eyes remain wide open in a dead, cold stare. It’s downright unsettling. Strangely repulsive.

Throughout this whole chase - I find myself transformed - I may have been sympathetically at Frankie’s side before, but now? I’m playing the same predatory role as Claude. Chasing down this rising star, implicit in the studio machine.

But then Claude is gone and before you know it, Frankie is hanging in the corridor, silhouetted in white light, arms straight out, feet off the floor. One of those moments which is seared in my brain - a defining image of the studios. A moment so perfect it took my breathe away each and every time. 

My heart is always racing again by this point, and Frankie is borderline panicked as he tries to regain composure in Stanford’s dressing room. Gazing into the mirror, swigging a drink, taking a jacket from the coat rack.

He peers through the heavy curtains as the party starts to kick into gear - he’s a star! He deserves to be here! He throws punches at the air, preparing himself for a grand entrance. Arms flung wide again - this time triumphant - greeting Stanford as if he were not the man that scared him half to death just a little earlier.

As the orgy reaches its climax (sorry, couldn’t help it), it’s Frankie who is stood centre stage, Claude at his waist. Staring straight at Wendy as he punches the air. BFFFFT! BFFFFT! 

Maybe after this he feels he’s part of the club - maybe he thinks that his seduction of Claude (as he sees it) has won him respect, or that he’s owed something. Trying to carry on, it is him who ends up slammed to the floor, Claude slithering and sliding over his body. Frankie rejected. Alone. Broken.

A fearful dash back upstairs and onto Claude’s board room table. One of the most incredible, heart-wrenching dances in the show. He’s fighting someone, his body writhing, being flung to the floor between punches by an invisible force. Is it Claude he’s fighting? Or the unstoppable power of the studios? Or his own troubled demons?

There’s suddenly blood. It used to just be smeared across a hand. In the final weeks it seemed to increase in quantity, wiped over his face, down his chest. 

A scene that it took me many, many shows to finally see, but was so utterly worth the wait. Frankie slumped momentarily in a cinema chair as the horse flickers across the screen. That seagull hanging below the red velvet of the ceiling. 

Then he’s leaning across to me “Good luck” he whispers. An award is announced and Frankie is suddenly smiling again, shaking the hands of everyone in that tiny cinema. Returning back to me, grasping my hand and imploring me to not be disheartened, it just wasn’t my year.

And no matter which Frankie I was faced by - stood up there, squinting in the bright light, reeling off his speech as blood dripped from his hand, or later, down over his face - I’d start to struggle to breathe and tears would rise in my eyes. My face, underneath my mask, forming into a stony look of horror as his joy and excitement crumpled and broke as he struggled to see. 

Some towns are built of marble / some cities built on schemes / only one is built of magic / only one is built on dreams / my world … my world of Hollywood.

My face would stay frozen in empty horror as we piled into the Seamstress shop. (I never did work out what was really going on with those two). And, I’m not sure there was any moment of eye contact in the entire show more intense than having Jeepers Creepers sang at you in there. 

Haunting, desolate, Frankie’s face emptied of all life. Until the t-shirt was pulled over his head and just a little glint started to creep back into his eyes, and the tiniest up-turned corner of a smile. His singing growing from a broken whisper into something a bit stronger. A dash through the seamstress maze and suddenly, there he is. Brand new Frankie. Like nothing ever happened. 

Except that I know it did, because I was there. Yet, even having been through that, by the time Frankie was throwing cushions at Marshall, giggling as he chased him round the trailer park, you couldn’t help but let yourself fill up with hope and excitement - even though you knew exactly where this story was headed.

But the story ends for me there - with throwing cushions at Marshall - because that was my favourite way to spend time with Frankie, from the start of the show, until he transformed back into his start-of-loop self. I never wanted to have to watch him descend again.

As a note: All of this is the smushed together memories of loops spent with Conor, Daniel and Anwar. And a confession, for some reason, it took (err…) tens of shows before I dedicated many loops to Frankie - although I made up for it over the last several months as he took a place amongst my favourites.

In most moments I’m probably imagining Daniel. Though, there was nobody else so capable of stealing a scene with a well-timed shout or by bursting into song than Conor’s Frankie. And it was his scene in the cinema in the final weeks that I think I’ll always remember most vividly.

What an extraordinary post. I’d like to meet you and give you a hug. Thank you for capturing so much of what I loved about Frankie.

It’s very slowly sinking in that this isn’t like the other times, when I’d fly away, be very sad, but be back within a month or two.

There really is no going back.


Artist - Pig
Song - My Sanctuary
Album - Praise The Lard
Year - 1991

Not to look at the face of the man who is dying
To look for the face of the man who is lying
The ambler gambler is low and loaded
His rusty steed turns to burn into my soul
I hear the cries
My body lies in sanctuary
The long way home I cannot seek
He knows the pain its special place
I know its look I know its face
White silver draws black lines
Bright whites the killing kind
Two wrongs don’t make a right
Two blacks don’t make a white
Devotion isn’t what it seems
The broker of my broken dreams
Hell is all that I see
My cell is my sanctuary
There’s a black space where my soul should be
A gaping wound where my heart could be
I feel so low I feel like Christ
I see my head is turning white
The knuckles twisted raw and I’m so empty
And there’s no respite
You prey together on the small
Hell-vision shows it every night
The ambler gambler is low and loaded
His rusty steed turns to burn into my soul
I hear the cries
My body lies in sanctuary
The long way home is what I seek
He knows the pain its special place
And I know your face

Long before I’d ever heard of Punchdrunk, this band was one of my obsessions.

My favorite way to begin a visit to The Drowned Man was with the Fool.

From the first lift, up or down to the finale stage, and there he was.

I’d stand behind him, and we’d watch Wendy in the distance. She’d be shrouded in fog, the backlit outline of a woman, throwing herself among the trees, climbing and falling.

"Grenouille’s Childhood" would play, haunting and lovely, in the immense space, so huge you couldn’t see the walls. Wendy was just this tiny tragic woman, so alone, not realizing she was being observed… It might have been the most beautiful moment in The Drowned Man.

I’d watch from behind the Fool, so that I could see them both at once, him puppeting her movements. Was he controlling her, or did he just already know what she would do?

Then Mr. Stanford would speak. “Let’s do another take.”

Wendy would approach, oh so slowly, through the trees, up the steps, and to the pool of water. The Fool would back away, to the railing, and if he’d already attracted a crowd, they’d swarm him.

But the best thing to do wasn’t to hover an inch from the Fool - what was the point, when he was just looking through you to Wendy? The best thing was to back away, in front of the pool, down the steps, as far away as you could get while keeping both the Fool and Wendy in your field of vision.

You’d see her in the foreground, him in the distance, the opposite view as when you entered. The further away you could get, the more beautiful the scene, the more you could see of the immensity of the space, the extraordinary set, the relative smallness of the people. First loop was best - sometimes it would just be the three of you.

"In a lonely place, on a silent night, you’re by the water.
Everything is still, as if the world were dead,
But there’s something in the water…”

Wendy would reach down, so slowly, and in the distance, the Fool would mirror her.

Was there another moment in Drowned Man as hauntingly beautiful?

The moon would come out from behind the cloud, ”and you’ve never seen anything shine so bright…”

Nothing like finding yourself near tears, just five minutes into the show.

He was just trying to get you to follow Wendy, of course, but the silent, eerie figure of the Fool in the distance was so haunting.


The Fool was the third character I ever followed, first loop at the second preview.

I found him shortly out of the first lift, but I don’t think he did that opening scene. I just remember him sitting against the railing. The Fool, in early previews, barely had a loop.

I remember he did the drowning scene with Lila. I remember him piecing together the map and following it to the foley room. But did he do the whole performance in the tent? Maybe?

My first Fool was Paul Zivkovich, and at that time his Fool reminded me of his Porter - sad and a bit OCD. He developed so many great quirks later, the way he’d talk to himself for example, but that all grew over time.

I don’t remember much else from that very first loop. He did some handstands in the dressing room. He stared longingly at a photo on the makeup table. I followed him through a door which turned out to lead into Studio 3, which they were still letting the audience in through at that time - a black mask politely directed me out and the Fool reappeared shortly afterward.

He led us through the trees, into the distant fog, and I felt terribly self-conscious about being in the way. At one point it seemed impossible for me to get out of his way - no matter where I moved, he just kept coming at me. Then he grabbed me. Oh! He was trying to pull me into a 1:1.

There was no Studio 8 at that time. He pulled me under a tarp or something, against the back wall. The music was so loud I could barely hear - I caught just enough words to know it was the Grandmother’s story. I could barely see his face. Afterward he sat under a tree and juggled wood chips for ten minutes.

People always apologize and/or make fun of me, that I had the bad luck to come at previews. But I loved seeing the previews. I love that a company whose productions seem almost supernaturally well put-together are, in fact, only human, that these productions aren’t magic, they’re the result of incredible hard work.

It was so cool to see the Fool go from barely having a loop to being one of the most extraordinary characters in the show.

I loved the Fool for completely different reasons than I loved Frankie. Frankie ultimately appealed to me for very traditional reasons - the character arc, the narrative layers, the dialog. The Fool was something else entirely - I never thought much about who he was or why he did what he did. The Fool existed on a level that was more visual, more abstract, more symbolic. The choreography and performance were so beautiful, and they weren’t just about him - they were about the entire show, how strange and sad and lovely it all was.

Also, unlike Frankie, who was very tied to a particular performer for me, I loved many of the performers who played the Fool. It was wonderful to get to see so many different takes on the same character.

On the extreme end, Omar’s and Paul’s were so different - different interactions, different relationships, different scenes entirely. I once had the loop with Omar’s Fool back when it was nearly an extended public 1:1 - I remember rushing along that passageway behind the finale stage, him clutching me to help him stand, him falling to the ground, pulling me down, and Conrad looming over us, demanding “Did you tell them?” I like Conrad, but that is probably the moment I came closest to breaking my silence - all I wanted in the world was to tell Conrad to leave him alone. It felt so real.

After Omar’s Fool walked me out, he danced with me in Studio 3, spun me around, told me to come back and follow him again any time. He was so extraordinary, really, so many of them were, it’s hard to have a favorite.

I followed Rob McNeill’s Fool when he’d just started, and I wasn’t impressed - at first it seemed a pale imitation of Paul’s. I followed Rob’s again after it had time to develop, and it too had become extraordinary. Just little touches that made it wonderfully his own. He played up the duality of the character - visually, he’d paint half his face and pause before painting the other half. He’d direct Wendy to the party, but then suggest perhaps she shouldn’t go. He’d see Wendy retrieving the scissors, preparing for the final murder, and he’d fight with himself out loud about whether to stop her. He spoke much more, and seemed to struggle more explicitly against the control of the studio.

I spent a lovely loop once with Hector Harkness’s Fool - it must’ve been one of the last times he played the character, mid-April, and I actually tore myself away from Conor’s Eugene because I’d never been in London when Hector was Fool before. His Fool had such a warm, reassuring quality - when he led me into the darkness, I trusted him completely.

I also only ever followed Alistair Goldsmith’s Fool once - at the time, his was like Paul’s, nearly the same choreography, but he seemed more in control, more powerful, angrier - just little touches that brought a sinister quality which differentiated his Fool and made it interesting to follow.

(I never quite connected with Francois Testory or Greig Cooke, but you can’t win them all.)

So back to remembering the Fool…

After that beautiful opening scene, we’d go to the tent, and he’d clown for Lila. I loved every single version of this scene that I ever saw. Paul’s was my favorite, but all the Fool performers had their own slightly different take, and it was great to see the variety.

My favorite version, selfishly, was in the autumn, the first show there was no Lila. I thought I was hiding, in the corner, feeling dorky about being there again, when suddenly Paul’s Fool grabbed me, spun me in a dance, sat me down across from him, and did the scene with me as Lila. I have this vivid memory of sitting there, trying not to giggle, trying to remember what Lila even does in the scene, with Paul across from me clowning, and another friend in the seat next to me, also giggling at Paul.

It was really, really fun.

My favorite take on the script/map scene was Rob McNeill’s, for reasons throwtherose describes - there was something warmly inclusive about the fact that he’d read the text aloud. Rob’s Fool was so different from his Andy, and yet both had such a similar likable quality.

I was sad/glad to see Rob’s final performance, Saturday July 5 - my most vivid memory was the tape stubbornly refusing to unspool, and his Fool finally giving up and tossing the tape at an audience member to get it working, with a “last show, huh?” that had the whole audience laughing with him.

Stacking the champagne glasses was a fun bit that I only saw Paul do, especially amusing when he’d make it obvious that he’d knocked them over on purpose. The first time I saw it, the whole interaction seemed improvised; subsequent times, I was always surprised how real it seemed. When I was chosen, I remember being so nervous that I’d do it wrong, but of course, the scene would have been funnier if I’d messed up.

The drowning scene was so creepy. I think the worst aspect was the sudden reversal, from a haunted Fool scaring innocent Lila with “We live inside a dream,” to sweet Lila, suddenly possessed, holding the Fool’s head under the water as he struggled. Then his look of betrayal, and her shock at what she’d done.

Once I went to see the scene on a night there was no Fool - Laure’s Lila was in there alone, preparing for the scene, and the lack of Fool was so disturbing that I ran away and didn’t see what she did in place of the drowning.

I loved circling the private party with the Fool, watching the stars enter, feeling left out together. I loved the snarky interaction Paul’s Fool would have with Dolores, “No invite again, eh Oscar?”

Another favorite scene, maybe my actual favorite scene in the show - the Fool’s dance in the ice palace. It was a microcosm of the entire show, such a beautiful set, those mountains of fake snow, and such a strange, eerie, beautiful performance - manic, sinister, over-the-top, and very very sad.

I particularly loved the little distraction techniques he would use, so that you wouldn’t notice his hands full of snow until he suddenly threw it into the air, and you could easily miss him swallowing the chess piece, so that you’d be freaked out when he slowly spat it out to Marshall. It was true to the character, a figure who, like Harry and Conrad, came from another era, whose talents were no longer valued…

I wish I’d been able to experience the 1:1 the first time without knowing what we’d find at the end…. it’s one of the reasons I loathe spoilers. It would have been extraordinarily more powerful.

After previews, I went back in August, and of course I wanted my first visit to Studio 8 to be with Paul’s Fool. But at the early show, I was wandering aimlessly, not even realizing where I was, when Omar’s Fool suddenly appeared and grabbed me.

I thought, for a moment, of telling him no, sorry, I’m waiting for next show. But of course who would do that? I went with him, and his performance was wonderful, his Fool so sad and so reassuring - there’s no way I could regret seeing it with him first.

With Paul’s Fool, the first time, I painted his nose red, and he let me out in the basement. There’s something about the way Paul tells that story - calm, sad, reassuring, but also distant… it was different than any of the others. Rob and Omar were both more immediate, more visceral - I think they both had me lay on the bed - and Hector’s was so gentle… but Paul’s was more haunting…

I never helped with Paul’s makeup again, but I later experienced the version of the 1:1 with the running in the dark, letting you out back where you started, and *that* became my favorite 1:1 in The Drowned Man. (I’d say my favorite Punchdrunk 1:1, except the Porter in Sleep No More is still the best.) It was the running that did it - I mean, just, when in your life do you ever do something like that? I don’t. The adrenaline rush was completely real. There was no thinking, just running through the darkness and trusting that he’d get me out safe.


I said a lot of goodbyes to the Fool. (So many that it doesn’t feel real - I kind of think I could turn the corner tomorrow and see him again…)

The real goodbye was Paul’s “last” show, because Paul was my first Fool and I knew it would not be the same without him. He walked me out, kissed my cheek, walked away, glanced back one last time - in my heart, that was the end.

But then I came back, and saw Rob, Ali, and Greig, and they were wonderful too.

And then I was at the Sleep No More Mayfair party, and Paul was basically the Fool, behind the window of the tailor shop, doing bits of the ice palace dance and applying his makeup in the mirror. It was so lovely to see him again.

I thought maybe the final time I’d spend a full loop with the Fool was with Rob McNeill, when I revisited his Fool in mid-June and found that it had become so good. The loop was beautiful, the 1:1 was perfect, and that would have been a really good ending. The only thing missing was that we didn’t run in the darkness.

But then at the very final show…

I went to my favorite place to start a show, the finale stage, but since the 20 people in the queue ahead had ballooned into 70 by the time they let us in, I was just too late for my favorite opening scene. I went, instead, to the tent. And Paul was the Fool.

I can’t think of a better way to say goodbye to the show.

I got to see his tent act again. I stacked three plastic champagne glasses. I saw Lila try to drown him. I was in shock at actually getting to see his wonderful ice palace dance one more time. His “It’s not real” afterward always kills me. I (and another white mask) helped him stand when his legs didn’t work - he said “I’m okay,” stepped forward, and fell flat on his face. That scene… Then he went to the makeup table. He gabbed bloodwillhavebloodtheysay from the corner to help with his makeup. Then he grabbed me and pulled me in for my final visit to Studio 8.

I know everybody is always saying how they cry in 1:1s, but I really don’t, usually. That is the most I’ve ever cried in one.

Then we ran in the darkness, and you can’t really cry through that.

He said, at the end of the 1:1, something I’m forgetting now… something like that at the end, we’d blow the whole thing wide open…

I left after that, but since I’d missed the beginning, I came back for one final scene - the finale stage, and Wendy in the trees. It was too crowded, hard to appreciate the vast beauty of the space when white masks keep blocking everything you’re trying to see.

But still - I’m glad that scene was my last ever glimpse of the Fool.



Actually if Ed Warner did get hired to play Boy Witch I would restart Scorched just to rattle on at length about how brilliant he is.

I would legitimately participate in a letter-writing campaign to make this happen.


"Mr. Stanford says thanks."


"Mr. Stanford says thanks."


The light inside Temple Studios was something special, wasn’t it?

* Standing in the trailer forest at the edge of the town as Greig Cooke’s William hangs suspended and protected by T J Lowe’s Andy. The men’s bodies are shrouded in darkness, while beyond the dingy forest a light flares and the suggestive silhouettes of Kate Jackson’s Mary and Oliver Hornsby-Sayer’s Dwayne are cast into sharp relief agianst the big sleek lines of the car.

* Dear Stephen Dobbie,

The clash of the melancholy drones of the tree dance against doo-wop harmonies has forever tarnished The Moonglows’ Sincerely for me.

I hope you’re pleased with yourself.

p.s. Sincerely, though… you should be very VERY pleased with yourself.

* Spectres haunt the Doctor’s office as William’s shadow (Grieg Cooke) overlays Da Vinci’s ideal of man, while the Doctor (Ira Siobhan Mandela) sees only the bestial and disposable.

* Sitting at the roundest part of the curved horseshoe of the bar, viewing the hoedown as a series of shapes and patterns while Ed Warner’s Barman pours a shot for the white mask beside me.

* The perfect silhouette of Lucia Chocorro’s Drugstore Girl, rising from the floor and leaning against the bar as the fight kicks off. The light shines ice blue/red hot behind her. The pop of her gingham collar against her neck, her strong profile and the clean, straight plait of her hair. I wish there had been more cameras in that place. My mind took a photograph of that moment. It’s breathtaking. Promise.

* Glimpsed from the door of Studio 8, Bryony Perkins’ Dolores, with her elegantly-wasted hair and shabby sequinned gown, cradled in the arms of Jesse Kovarsky’s Marshall as they dance between the trees.

That moment when the moon comes out from behind a cloud, and Wendy finds something in the water…


When I first saw this duet, the most surprising thing was Lila’s entrance: quietly and out of the darkness, a horde for silent ghosts tailing her. I suppose this is what others saw, multumolim’s rendition seems to highlight that same tentative beginning. There’s another continuity error here, which I could’ve fixed but I kind of like it with its imperfections…


When I first saw this duet, the most surprising thing was Lila’s entrance: quietly and out of the darkness, a horde for silent ghosts tailing her. I suppose this is what others saw, multumolim’s rendition seems to highlight that same tentative beginning. There’s another continuity error here, which I could’ve fixed but I kind of like it with its imperfections…


The Summoning


The Summoning


A wolf on the prowl. So- regarding accuracy. I know a lot of my art is not quite accurate to the show, and I used to have a lot of qualms about it not being perfect. “Well, Dwayne wouldn’t have been wearing that jacket until later in the scene, and where are those dolls and those photos aren’t…” But I think we all know how Temple Studios can play tricks on your mind and memory. Now, with the sad realisation that this is as accurate a visual representation as it’s going to get, (unless someone posts something better) I’ll just keep sharing what I’ve got. A memory of Nico Migliorati’s Dwayne and Laure Bachelot’s Mary from earlier in the year.


A wolf on the prowl.
So- regarding accuracy. I know a lot of my art is not quite accurate to the show, and I used to have a lot of qualms about it not being perfect. “Well, Dwayne wouldn’t have been wearing that jacket until later in the scene, and where are those dolls and those photos aren’t…” But I think we all know how Temple Studios can play tricks on your mind and memory. Now, with the sad realisation that this is as accurate a visual representation as it’s going to get, (unless someone posts something better) I’ll just keep sharing what I’ve got. A memory of Nico Migliorati’s Dwayne and Laure Bachelot’s Mary from earlier in the year.