Sleep No More is all about being trapped and oppressed - by relationships, power, and the space itself. But The Drowned Man is about being lost, discarded, and forgotten.
Both the spaces and the relationships of the characters go along with this theme: the SNM space is smaller, every character but three has someone who loves them (and two out of the three still have love stories, so), and the Woman and Man in Bar seem more present. Walk-outs end with a kiss and some genuine intimacy. Characters try to break out of their decisions and fates, but can’t.
Whether the SNM theme is “fate is unavoidable” or “the consequences of your actions are unavoidable” – either way, there’s a claustrophobic chronology that permeates their loops. The smaller space, the intimacy, the feeling of inescapableness – it’s small scale, and it’s amazing.
On the other hand, the TDM space is colossal and daunting, many of the characters are alone, there’s an ongoing theme of people being thrown away or lost in dark corners to rot in obscurity. Even when you know the space, even when there are 600 other audience members - you often feel totally alone. Instead of a kiss, walk-outs usually end with a clearly superficial (though still appropriately sweet) sort of interaction, which I won’t spoil. But the point is – it’s all in keeping with a film studio that discards actors as they outgrow their usefulness, a space that leaves you feeling tiny and alone, and relationships that stray. It’s all thematically linked, and it’s just as powerful – but it’s the opposite theme.
I’m sure part of my interpretation is colored by my greater familiarity with Sleep No More (as I got more familiar with TDM, I started to get the feeling that their Man and Woman In Bar actually probably were just as charismatic – though due to the nature of their roles in “Hollywood”, still seeming a bit more superficial by thematic necessary) – but it’s really clear that the themes of the two shows are diametric opposites.
And I suppose that’s why I don’t really see a logical reason to determine which show is ‘better’: you really couldn’t find two more opposing ideas to play around with.
There was a point during my final TDM show where I saw something so thoroughly unexpected that I essentially gave in: I’ll be coming back to Temple Studios. I have no choice.
But I can still go back to Manderley again…
Very cool analysis - it’s so interesting (and so Punchdrunk) how the space sets the whole tone.
I feel like TDM is also about disillusionment - the dark side of dreams, discovering that your dream has actually become a nightmare…