A Guide To Punchdrunk: What To Expect At Viola’s Room

Back in March, Punchdrunk announced their new production, an audio-driven experience titled Viola’s Room. Unlike previous performances, the audience will enter barefoot and, instead of wearing a mask, will use headphones.

This unique setup invites guests into a sensory world crafted with the detail Punchdrunk is known for. If you’re planning a visit, here’s everything you need to know to prepare for an unconventional adventure in storytelling.

What you need to know before you go to Punchdrunk’s Viola’s Room 

Booking Tickets For Viola’s Room

Tickets are exclusively available online through the Punchdrunk website and cost £42.00.

Timeslots consist of 6 people. This means you either book a ticket to be part of a group of 6 other people or you can book the whole session for yourself or your group. 

Getting To One Cartridge Place

Woolwich Station is less than a 5-minute walk away from One Cartridge Place and is easy to reach by the Elizabeth Line from Liverpool Street, Tottenham Court Road and Paddington.

Woolwich Arsenal station is about 10 10-minute walk and gets you there via Bank, Stratford International and London Bridge stations. 

Entering The Venue

The entrance is on the corner of Carridge Place and the Duke of Wellington Avenue. If you get there early it can be unclear if you’re at the right place because there are no signs for Punchdrunk or Viola’s Room. They open the doors 20 minutes before the first session.

Inside The Venue

The box office desk is on your left as you enter, and staff will check your tickets and timeslot. Don’t put away your phone away yet as your ticket will need to get scanned later on.

The cloakroom is part of the box office desk and you can drop off your items and get a tag. The cloakroom integrated with the box office desk allows you to check in items. Small handbags and cross-body bags are free, whereas coats, bags, or small backpacks cost £2, and larger items like suitcases cost £5.

Once you have dropped off your bag, you go through to the space where you can either enter to start your session and get your QR tickets scanned. 

If you are too early you can head to the Prop Store bar for a drink and the staff will come and get you when your round is about to start. You can also use the toilets, which are on the right as you enter the building.

Once your QR code gets scanned you will be directed to a table and chairs where you join your group and read through the guidelines. A staff member will then talk you through and explain where to expect. They also will mention that there is a point during the story where you’ll crawl for 10 – 15 seconds and there is a very short section of the show where you walk through a very narrow space in the dark for 15 – 30 seconds. You are also reminded to be mindful and not talk during the session.

Then you’re guided to a waiting room where you will take off your shoes and socks and place them in an individual box and write a nametag and place them inside. You are also encouraged to use a sanitizer spray on your feet. 

Next, you’ll be asked to wear a headset and a pouch, in which you can place your phone. You’ll also find a device that you can use to press the emergency alarm if needed.

Once they give your headsets the a-ok you’ll wait for a white light to turn on and get to enter the experience and you’re on your own as a group.

My Viola’s Room Review 

Viola’s Room is very different to previous Punchdrunk shows like The Burnt City and Sleep No More. Of course, that doesn’t mean it’s not as enjoyable, but it’s important to not go in there expecting the theatrical style of previous works and the large element of exploration. This show is a narrative-led pathway through an imaginative story that plays with your senses and does a really good job at it. Helena Bonham Carter was an inspired narrator and a great fit for Punchdrunk. Much like their other works, Viola’s Room is derived from a mixture of sources, most notably Barry Pain’s 1901 gothic horror The Moon Slave, which is given a modern twist by Booker Prize-shortlisted writer Daisy Johnson.

I would definitely go back again if I have the chance. My tip would be to have fun and get lost in the story.

What You Need To About Viola’s Room

It gets very dark at times. They warn you about this at the start, but when you’re in an unfamiliar space it can be more disorientating than you might expect.

As mentioned there is one very small crawling section that takes 15 – 20 seconds, so be aware if you have mobility issues, and dress sensibly.

There is also one small section of the route that involves a very narrow space you walk through. However, the ‘walls’ are soft and if you go sideways it doesn’t feel as cramped. Personally, as someone who’s a bit claustrophobic, it was over very quickly and didn’t detract from my experience.

The temperature inside is comfortable. I was wearing a T-shirt and jeans and wasn’t too cold or too hot. During The Burnt City it did get quite warm, but I’m happy to say this wasn’t the case this time. 

There are sections with strong smells that can be overwhelming, but they pass fast.

Expect to travel through different environments with all the different sensual experiences that might bring. 

Don’t rush, unless you’re told to, and take your time exploring Viola’s Room.

After The Show

You’ll exit through the Prop Store, where you can sit down for a drink surrounded by various props and costumes from previous Punchdrunk productions. 

When I attended there was sadly no merchandise to buy, but I hope this changes.

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