That evening in NYC, I attended the show Sleep No More by Punchdrunk. I had been told about the British theater company that puts together site-specific immersive theater experiences earlier this year. When a friend told me that the show was on in NYC, I made sure that I had to check it out. It was well worth it.
The best way I can think of describing Sleep No More is to imagine a haunted house where there is a play going on. The play was based on Macbeth set in 1939 but they also developed minor characters’ stories too.
The play takes place at the McKittrick Hotel, which I’m not entirely sure it’s a real hotel or just a warehouse. Everyone is given masks to wear during the show so that it creates a sense of anonymity. It also separates the audience from the performers. The whole idea is that the audience can wander and explore 4-5 floors in this building. There are dozens of rooms, a woman’s bedroom, a child’s bedroom, a hospital, a graveyard, a ballroom, and many more. The audience can explore the rooms, open drawers, and read letters. In the old timey hospital, I picked up a clipboard that mentioned how Lady Macbeth was still having issues with hallucinations. Such detail. At one point, I stumbled across a candy shop where we starting eating from the jars!
The idea is for a personal experience. They actually told us that it is lame to hold hands with the person you came with. They expect you to explore on your own. You can also follow the actors as they proceed through the hotel. You can follow one actor from room to room or branch off if you see someone else. I sort of let the actions in front of me guide me from scene to scene. It was a practice in patience; sometimes you’d stumble across an actor methodically sewing something into a teddy bear and then bam! He’s run across the room, down the hallway, and up the stairwell to a creepy taxidermy lab with animal skulls on the wall. Then he’d run elsewhere to a tailor shop and then engage in a dance/fight with another character.
Much of the interaction between actors was dance. The most effective scene was the passionate, angry argument between Macbeth and Lady Macbeth about whether he should kill the king. They pushed each other against walls, threw themselves around the room at each other. It was incredible.
There was little dialog, which s would be a little confusing since I did have difficulty distinguishing between characters. But I feel that it didn’t matter. This was beyond Macbeth. The stories were so real; it was like real life. You’d just stumble upon a couple fighting, or a man trying to console a weeping woman. But I was disappointed I didn’t find where Duncan had been murdered. I also couldn’t figure out who were the witches.
The scenery were also expertly done. There was a graveyard or outdoor space that was so creepy, I kinda ran through it. That’s pretty impressive for an indoor space that I know is not real. Lighting was also essential to the mood. Lights would change subtly, changing the whole tone of the room. And there were some secret doors you can take. I got to use a wardrobe secret door. So neat!
I feel that I need to do it again, however. I feel that I missed so much, even though I saw so much. I want to follow other characters. And there was one room I didn’t get into that was open while I was following someone else but later closed. I’d open more drawers to find more letters and other clues. I passed a room with a coffin in it. Only did I realize later that I could have tried to open it!
This is truly a performance like no other. I am truly lucky to have been able to go to it. I can’t wait to have the opportunity again.
That’s all for now!