What has prompted my latest desire to pour out my thoughts and feelings onto the internet is my recent involvement in the fan community of Punchdrunk's 'The Drowned Man'. Well, actually my involvement in going to see the play came first (and quite by accident), but for me the two things go hand in hand.
Despite the show being an intensely personal and individual experience (you are told specifically to 'ditch your friends, go it alone'), it is the strong community of dedicated, enthusiastic and, dare I say it, a little 'obsessive' fans (and cast members!) that fueled the burning passion I have for the show and the mythology surrounding it. The late night theory forming, the heated discussions on Facebook, the agonizing over tiny details or cast combinations, the plotting and planning your next visit over endless tea and cigarettes...this was not just theatre, this was life.
In addition, my own experience of the show came at a time in my life when I was very lost and alone; I had just had to give up my job due to severe, ongoing anxiety and I was also considering the fact that perhaps teaching was never going to be the right job for me. The show and the layers upon layers of detail, allusions and references gave me a direction and focus as I was using my brain for something I deeply loved instead of a job that had become too stressful. What is more, it appealed to the dramatic, creative and also the academic sides to my personality that had been buried for a long time.
The other important factor in my life this year was my decision to look seriously at training as a therapist. My first step was a course in Person Centered Counselling and what I was learning on the course dovetailed neatly with my experiences at 'The Drowned Man'. On the course we looked at Phenomenology and the Self-Concept...our unique ways of experiencing the world and how a therapist can empathise and get close to seeing things through another persons eyes. This was never more apparent than when you were taken into a room, alone by a character and given a very unique experience.
Not only was I completing the first stage in my training as a therapist, but I was also having some Cognitive Behaviour Therapy of my own to help with anxiety and long standing self-esteem issues. This close look at my own behavior and responses to situations informed my Punchdrunk experience; in the show you are left entirely free to explore and to make your own choices for three hours. As you can imagine it led to some interesting, and sometimes surprising, self-reflection, some of which I aim to explore in this blog.
It has been noted by many that the experience Punchdrunk enabled their audience to have was extremely therapeutic and I wholeheartedly agree. One of my interests is experiential learning and therapy and you can't get a much more full-on experience than a visit to 'The Drowned Man'. It was a strange juxtaposition of having complete control over your journey...and yet occasionally letting the experience take you by the hand and lead into the unknown...