Sleep No More isn’t a standard theatrical play. Instead, it’s a 3 hour immersive theatre experience by the punchdrunk theater group. The show is an adaptation of Macbeth re-set in a dimly-lit, 1930s-era establishment called the McKittrick Hotel. The hotel is actually a 5-story block of warehouses in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood, transformed into the hotel-like performance space. The different rooms and floors have wild and unique themes, set designs, props, and music. The audience are given masks, told they cannot speak, and may freely move through the settings interacting with the props or observing the actors at their own pace. There is no program and actors move from room to room and floor to floor interacting with other actors and the sets on a repeating 1 hour loop cycle. They often run from room to room and may even push their way through audience members.
The action is deprived of nearly all spoken dialog and performed via interpretive dance, dialogless acting, yelling, and utilizing the set pieces in the different rooms. There’s lots of sensuality, mock fights that have actors acrobatically running up the sides of walls, actors are more than occasionally nude, bathed in fake blood, wearing strange costumes, or performing strange rituals and bizarre scenes. There are lots of hidden secrets and even 1-on-1 scenes in which an actor might select you and will perform a scene with you – often away from everyone else.
Most people say that it takes multiple visits before you can get a grip on everything that’s going on – and there are even guides on how to get the best experience. They encourage attendees that “Fortune favors the bold”; and encourage you to become participants in a way by placing yourself in the midst of the actors performing a scene. Some of the actors will acknowledge you being close to them and perform something with you like singing a song, giving you an item, or leading you to a private scene. Sadly, however, anonymity, pre-event drinking, and people taking the advice to be bold too far, have led to some problems with guests.
Still, if you’re interested in some experimental experiential theatre, this might be up your alley. It’s only in New York and books up far in advance – so reserve your spot well before your plans to go.