Why I think everyone needs to see Sleep No More at least once

If you do not immediately know what I am referring to in the title, you are probably sitting there asking yourself “What is Sleep No More?”  It’s really difficult to explain but thankfully the show sent me a pretty good summation:

“UK-based Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More is an award-winning theatrical experience that tells Shakespeare’s classic tragedy Macbeth through a darkly cinematic lens. Audiences move freely through the epic world of the story at their own pace, choosing where to go and what to see, ensuring that everyone’s journey is different and unique.”

Just as a reminder, Sharon and I went to see Sleep No More during our recent NYC trip.

I’ve seen Sleep No More five times since 2011 and it still fascinates me. Thankfully, I still have the Facebook post I made after seeing it the first time to remind me of my initial reaction.

Joe updated his status.
Aug 28, 2011 1:22pm
Sitting here still trying to figure out something I saw days ago. Not sure if that means I liked it, was fascinated by it or just thoroughly confused by it.

robin-roemer-nick-and-sophie
Photo courtesy of The McKittrick Hotel

Let me try to explain a little about the show. You are given a mask (as shown in the picture above) upon entering and told you are to wear it at all times. You are also not allowed to talk or use a cell phone for any reason. With the mask on, your face looks like everyone else’s so when you enter the show, you feel anonymous. It’s like watching a drama on TV, but you are observing the story in person and can walk around the set (and there are a LOT of sets) wherever you want. You can choose to be in the middle of the action, or you can end up in a room all alone, reading the register at a hotel front desk or looking through a drawer in a taxidermy shop. Everything takes place all around you.

While seeing Sleep No More, you are encouraged to observe and explore. There is no one there to tell you where to go, what characters to follow or even what is happening. How you choose to follow the story is up to you. Because no two people take the same path, everyone has a different experience. Guests are strongly encouraged to split up when starting the show and I’d agree with this advice. Besides that part of the fun is meeting up afterward and comparing what you’ve seen, it’s more difficult, practically, to get around following the show when in a group.

photo-jan-29-10-01-15-pm
You are given a playing card upon arrival, and the card determines your entry time. Here is my collection from my various visits.

The first time you visit, it is a bit overwhelming and really easy to get disoriented. The show takes place over 5 floors of a building and the characters run up and down from scene to scene. That’s the maddening part – things are happening everywhere. If you are on the 5th floor watching something, there is also something else happening on the 2nd floor. You can’t possibly be at both places at once. How are you to follow the story?

This is the part of the show which Sharon found so difficult the first time she went. She was trying to make it a linear experience. It is not linear. It took me a while to be able to explain this to her before she’d go back to see it again, and her mindset was changed, she began to like it much more. You have to go where your instinct takes you. If someone runs past you, should you follow? Should you wait? Should you run the other way? It’s all up to you and no answer is wrong. Should you watch the scene happening in front of you or leave? There is nothing wrong in walking away. Go ahead. They won’t mind.  Are you interested in what that letter on the desk says? Sit down and read it. Go into empty rooms and explore, if you want. It is truly up to you.

Now let me state this fact, I’m not a huge fan of dance and there is a lot of it during the show. You see, the characters don’t talk. Most of the story is told through dance, or at least stylized movement.  The first time I watched, I could not believe that I, of all people, was transfixed watching people dance. It was so intimate. So powerful. And to answer your question, yes you are really that close.

drielys-2783
Photo courtesy of the McKittrick Hotel

I really can’t explain more than that and I think knowing what happens kind of ruins the experience.  After all that is what this is, an experience.

So why do I think everyone should see Sleep No More at least once? I’ve talked to many people who have gone to see it. There is one thing I’ve found in common. Everyone I’ve talked to has an opinion on it. Loved it. Hated it. Didn’t understand it. Fascinated by it. Obsessed with it. It FORCES you to have an opinion. You feel such a part of the show that it makes you think. It challenges you. Even if you choose to walk away, you’ve made a choice. I’ve not found anyone who walked around for 3 hours and was like, “meh.”

photo-jan-29-9-58-27-pm
I’m not telling how the lipstick got there.

So then why have I gone to see it five times? I feel that is the brilliance of the show. I’ve never seen the same show twice! I’ve approached it differently each time. I never plan what I am going to do in advance. It’s my own little adventure. I decide what I’m going to do when I get there. On two previous trips, I was even picked by a character and brought to a special area for a “one-on-one.” These are scenes where it’s just you and the character. It was really intense as you go from being an anonymous bystander in your mask, watching, and now you are exposed, vulnerable and a participant. After these encounters, I couldn’t explain what happened for a while but was fascinated by how I felt.

I’ve seen Sleep No More grow from where it was just the show back in 2011, to now, where they have a variety of entertainment options. There have always been drinks available at The Manderley, which is the bar that serves as the entrance to the show. However, they now often have special entertainment as well as with themed nights. The McKittrick Hotel, which is the name of the complex, is home to a new series of Masquerade parties and currently has a limited-engagement run of The Strange Undoing of Prudencia Hart taking place in The Heath space through winter, in partnership with The National Theatre of Scotland. We’ve wanted to eat at The Heath, which is usually a themed restaurant space, but never have been able to. We do have friends who dined there and they said it was wonderful.

the-lodge-main-dining-room-1_conor-harrigan
The Lodge at Gallow Green – Photo courtesy of the McKittrick Hotel

The newest addition to the area is Gallow Green. In the summer it is a rooftop bar. We’ve never visited in summer but luckily for us they transform it into The Lodge at Gallow Green for the winter. This is themed as a hideaway that invites guests to enter a cozy mountainside ski cabin hidden amidst a forest of real pine trees. We visited last winter for drinks after the show and this year, since they now were offering food,  we stopped in for dinner before the show. I am constantly amazed how they are able to find such a sense of “place” for all the environments they create.

If you want to take my advice and visit, tickets are available via www.sleepnomorenyc.com or by calling (866) 811-4111. For additional information, visit: www.mckittrickhotel.com. Information about special events and dining options are also on the website. Go! Do it! And then let me know what you thought about it – I’d love to hear about your experience there!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s