Sleep No More is, without a doubt, one of the most unique theatre experiences you can have in New York City.
The show takes place at The McKittrick Hotel, which for the sake of the production, is said to be an abandoned hotel that has been refurbished. There are 5 floors to explore, including The Manderley Bar, which will transport you back to the swingin' 1920s.
It's produced by Punchdrunk, a theatre company that specializes in immersive performances, and is a re-imagination of Shakespeare's Macbeth.
"Immersive" is putting it lightly when it comes to Sleep No More.
Audience members are free to roam about the space as they choose, as the scenes of Macbeth are performed voicelessly around them. You may follow whomever you want, and go wherever you want.
And if you let it, some really cool stuff will happen to you. But, you have to go after it; it's not just going to fall in your lap.
The experience definitely isn't for everyone, but if you're feeling adventurous, it's something I would highly recommend. And, you can see the show over and over and still see new things each time. I've been on three occasions and am itching to go back for more.
Therefore, I think it's safe to say I'm an expert on this subject. So, here are a few of the most important things to keep in mind during your Sleep No More experience.
1. You have to wear a mask
Before entering the show, you'll be handed a mask and instructed to put it on and leave it on for the remainder of the show.
It helps to maintain the audience's anonymity, but since the show involves close contact with the actors, it's also is a clear indicator of who is an audience member and who is a performer in the show.
So, seriously, don't take it off.
Yes, it will get uncomfortable. It will get sweaty and gross under there. But it's totally worth it.
2. Comfortable clothes are a wise choice
This isn't a show where you're seated for 2.5 hours - you're MOVING. There's tons to see, multiple levels to explore, and many flights of stairs.
I enjoy getting dressed up for a night out as much as the next person, but trust me, it's worth it to forgo the heels and dress and wear something you can move in. Your feet will thank you.
It also gets brutally hot in there, so be sure to dress accordingly.
3. You should really do it alone
By all means, go to the show with a group of friends or a date, but in order to get the most out of the show, you should really experience it totally alone.
Grab dinner or drinks after the show to rehash all the crazy shit you saw and did during the show. Trust me, you'll have a TON to talk about, especially if you choose to fly solo during the performance.
4. You'll probably be really confused
You likely read Macbeth in your high school English class and are able to recall basic plot points. Or perhaps you're a Shakespeare savant and know the play like the back of your hand. Either way, I hate to break it to you, but you're going to be confused during this performance.
The reason being that it's such a loose interpretation. The creators of the show took the core of the play and expanded it way beyond what Shakespeare wrote down.
Luckily, you can purchase a handy little booklet after the show that breaks down exactly who each character is and what's happening in the show, so you won't be too confused for long.
5. You can take a break if you want to
I won't lie - it's a very overwhelming show, both mentally and physically.
But luckily, if it starts feeling like too much or you're just plain tired, you can pop down to the bar on the 2nd floor at any point. You can hang out, have a drink, relax, etc, and are free to reenter the show as you wish.
6. There's a lot to look at
The set of the show is incredibly detailed and elaborate. There's 5 floors to explore, tons of rooms, countless props, and the audience has free reign over all of it. You're allowed to touch whatever you want (besides actors, of course) and explore wherever you want.
It's pretty cool, but it's a rookie mistake to spend valuable time during the performance looking through desks or opening boxes. The props are truly amazing, but if you spend time looking at all of them, there'll be almost no time left for watching scenes or interacting with actors (which is the best part, IMO).
7. Take the path less traveled
It won't take you long to realize that following Macbeth for the whole time will prove fruitless if your goal is a one-on-one interaction. Everyone and their mother will be following Macbeth.
Your best bet is to try and find an actor in a seemingly "smaller" role, and follow them. They will likely end up leading you to some pretty interesting places, and they may even end up being a bigger part of the play than you initially realized.
My second time seeing the show I stumbled across a "bartender" cleaning glasses at a counter. It wasn't a particularly exciting scene, but I stuck around to see what would happen. Only one other person was watching with me, and he eventually lost interest and walked away.
After a few minutes, the actor playing the bartender began an incredibly acrobatic dance sequence, flinging himself over the counter and around the pipes that hung from the ceiling. I followed him as he jumped over the counter and ran away, and continued following him for several minutes.
Eventually, he came to a locked door, took out a key, and turned to me with an outstretched hand. He led me inside the room, where he took off my mask and proceeded to deliver the most incredible monologue to me as if I were his son. I quickly figured out that he was playing Banquo, one of the main characters in Macbeth.
He anointed me in oil, handed me a sword, and told me that I "must hide among them." It was the coolest thing ever. And it would never have happened if I had walked past the "boring" bar scene like every other audience member.
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