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Punchdrunk reveal their secrets & storytelling techniques…

by | Feb 18, 2014

“Actors live in their bodies, not in their heads.” Katy Balfour, Punchdrunk actor

We were lucky enough to work on the set of Punchdrunk’s production of The Drowned Man back in 2014. In this blog we share some of the (still relevant to 2023 insights) from the workshop about how actors use random stimulus, get physically prepared and are open to collaboration. Participants spent time in the workshop doing physical warm up exercises that helped them get into a relaxed state that Katy calls ‘hazy focus”. The first thing they were asked to do was to put their bodies into ‘neutral’ position. Katy says that our bodies tell a story so you have to be clear on what you are unconsciously saying. Neutral position means standing tall, with your weight evenly balanced on both feet, looking straight ahead with a relaxed expression. It’s a blank canvas on which to develop your character.

Real-world application Think about what your body is saying next time you have to give a presentation or pitch – that flick of your hair, hitching your weight onto one leg or deep sighs give away more than you think. Remember Mehrabian’s famous study that showed the impact of the different elements of communications – words = 7%, tonality = 38%, body language = 55%

“We would never consider doing any creative work as actors without first warming up.” Katy, Producer and Performer, Punchdrunk

Actors and performers warm-up their bodies and their minds by getting physical in the space and warming up. We played rounds of a popular actor’s game called Zip, Zap, Boing and played hide and seek on the set, inviting people to take part in tasks using provocations hidden in the set – whisper a secret to the wall, tell a child a story.

Real-world application – warm up! Don’t expect creativity just to appear if you walk into a room and get everyone sitting down, scratching their heads and staring at white walls. Use your imagination in terms of how you do it in an office setting – ask people to tell you an outrageous lie, what’s your theme tune for the day, tell a story one word at a time.

“In every rehearsal room around the country you’ll find a prop box. It might be full of what looks like crap but every object can spark an idea.” We invited all the participants to take an object from the set to use as inspiration to develop ideas for a character and a story world. An old hairbrush, fake rose, grubby dressing gown, and pink wig all proved incredible stimulus for the stories.

  • Who owns this?
  • Where has it come from?
  • What 3 words describe it? Use this to start your story.

Real-world application – create your own prop box of random stimuli 

Use it as a springboard for creative ideas, keep adding to it to maintain a constant stream of inspiration.

If you’re interested in joining one of our storytelling workshops contact claire@nowgocreate.co.uk


Ready to jump in and find out more about how your team can craft emotional and compelling stories learning from our exclusive masterclasses led by professional storytellers and experts? Find out more about our Storytelling Masterclass here.