Paper Title- Tools of New Economy: Punchdrunk and Product Immersion

Panel- Corporate Tools: Commercial Performance in Theory and Practice 

From my introduction:

“London-based Punchdunk is well known on both sides of the Atlantic for site-specific theatrical productions based upon canonical literature. Though they typically produce installations with limited life spans, Sleep No More, a freewheeling version of Macbeth, has enjoyed an open-ended run inside two abandoned warehouses on New York City’s West 27th Street since early 2011. In recent years, the company has also begun teaming up with major corporations for product launches. These productions now feature prominently on the company’s website and are dubbed ‘partnerships.’ Punchdrunk describes the partnerships in aesthetic rather than commercial terms: ‘Occasionally, we are able to collaborate with like- minded, imaginative organizations to bring original and extraordinary ideas to life.’

In The Black Diamond and The Night Chauffeur, created to promote the 2010 debut of Stella Artois Black Lager, audience members were directed to a mysterious 1960s bar and a surprise birthday party inside an office complex, respectively. Offered rides in a Citroen DS coupe by a mysterious femme fatale, spectators were taken on individualized journeys and offered fractured components of a narrative that could be pieced together online after the live experience has ended. In ...and darkness descended, created by Punchdrunk and Sony to promote the launch of Sony’s 2011 first-person shooter Resistance 3, audiences were led in small groups through a post-apocolyptic landscape in the tunnels beneath Waterloo station and instructed to work together to send a message to the video game’s protagonist. For an untitled collaboration with Louis Vuitton to celebrate the opening of the clothier’s new flagship Bond Street store in London, Punchdrunk offered two major twists on the traditional star-studded dinner function. First, celebrities and customers were led to the dinner individually by characters driving limousines, taxis, train cars, and rickshaws. Second, the dinner took place not inside the flagship store, but in an abandoned Post Office sorting depot.

This study will explore the economic and theoretical implications of these Punchdrunk collaborations for corporations, consumers, audience members, and traditional theatrical organizations. First, I will explicate the unique financial and organizational structure Punchdrunk has established, positioning itself as both a British non-profit and an international commercial enterprise. Second, I will investigate the interest corporations have showed in Punchdrunk and the ways that the company’s formal techniques have augmented the brand identity of Sony, Stella Artois, Louis Vuitton, and others. Finally, I will question Punchdrunk’s own brand construction and the company’s rhetorical position in the worlds of performance, commerce, and spectatorship.”

Image credit: Carl Burke