Punchdrunk’s production of Sleep No More is the talk around town. The British experimental theatre company sells out tickets to the show every night far in advance. Not only is it difficult to find tickets, it’s hard to begin to describe what Sleep No More actually is and the kind of experience that the guests of the fictional McKittrick Hotel encounter. Some believe it’s a haunted house made for adults, others view it purely as a theatrical interpretation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth.
The night begins with the checking of every belonging to assure for free hands that will allow the hands-on exploration of the premises: drawers may be opened, letters are a must-read and actors must be chased around the hotel to experience the night at its best. A single game card is given to each person prior to entering the sultry 1920s-inspired bar where guests wait to be called by the number on their card, which determines when they are to enter. Once called, guests are presented with a Venetian beak mask that must be worn for the entirety of the night. Guests then enter an elevator where they are instructed to not speak inside at all, and tipped to experience the night alone rather than in a group. As the elevator reaches different floors, guests are dropped off, and some even forced to exit the elevator alone and leave their group behind.
And then the adventure begins. It is said that it’s possible to attend multiple times and each visit provides for a different chilling experience and exposure to varying scenes. For the next three hours guests are “ghosts” at the McKittrick Hotel. Actors look past the guests with blank stares and are unfazed when hordes of people begin to desperately chase them to the next scene. Guests navigate their own way through the six, highly detailed, and perfectly adorned floors. There are handwritten letters that set the scene, albums with pictures of corpses, blood on furniture and taxidermy adorning the walls; all are clues and pieces to the puzzle. As guests walk in to scenes, or better yet “situations” of investigation, murder, ballroom dancing, and even a slow motion dinner orgy, it is hard to not wonder if it was done the right way or followed the right actor. Fear of missing out on scenes others could have possibly seen is common, but rest assured there is no right or wrong way to experience Sleep No More.
This is the most interesting and entertaining way I have ever experienced theater before. It is so extremely captivating, and although it is hard to follow the story, the “situations” you walk into leave you speechless. It’s a must-go and cannot be missed.