When one critic hailed the company’s immersive show ‘game of the year’, founder Felix Barrett explored video games’ non-linear storytelling. Now he spies a new frontier for the stage
There is a head-scratching moment at the beginning of the popular farming simulator video game Stardew Valley, where you wonder, “What now?” Newly installed on your late grandfather’s dilapidated farm, you’re given no instructions on how to turn the business’s fortunes or what to explore in the neighbouring town.
This conundrum fills Felix Barrett with glee. As the founder and creative director of British theatre company Punchdrunk, he has spent 19 years turning warehouses into vast worlds that audiences must learn to explore alone. From Woyzeck to Faust, Punchdrunk transforms classic plays into sprawling, interactive experiences. The idea is this: traditional theatre shows are passive affairs where you watch a distant stage from the comfort of a chair – but a Punchdrunk show is active, mysterious, and places you inside a fiction you can touch, smell, and even taste. The choice of what to do and where to go is up to you.