In all the things I saw and experienced on our trip to New York City this summer, nothing has stayed with me more than Sleep No More. I find myself thinking about it oh so often. And with the Halloween season upon us, the compelling show is top on my mind.
Sleep No More is a non-traditional show produced by a company called Punchdrunk. To say the least, it is intriguing, mysterious, and hauntingly captivating. An adaptation of MacBeth, it’s immersive theatre where a 6-story building creates the stage and audience members are invited to participate in the vaguely familiar storyline.
When an actor walks past you, follow him. If you come across a door, open it. See a book of notes on a desk, flip through it. You never know what you’ll find. The line between real and fiction is so blurry that you really do become lost in the story in the most interesting of ways.
Spoiler Alert: If you’re considering going to the show, you may not want to have your experience tainted by hearing all the nitty gritty details beforehand. So I’d suggest ceasing reading the rest of this post. If you don’t like new and unique (and scary-as-hell) experiences or if you simply like to be fully prepared, then read on!
Upon arrival to The McKittrick Hotel (located on the NYC High Line), we were directed through a windy maze (which purposefully made us feel completely lost) and we eventually ended up in a bar which felt like a cool 1930’s jazz club. Jeff got a drink in an attempt to loosen up for the show. Me? I wanted to be completely alert, so no absinthe for me. That was probably a mistake.
After donning our required masks (Think: Eyes Wide Shut meets Scream) and vowing not to remove them or talk for the duration of the show, we were shuffled into an elevator and set free on another floor. The show had begun.
Very shortly after I started my journey (independent of Jeff, OMG), I found myself alone without any other audience members in sight and lacking any actors to watch. The solitude was even scarier than being surrounded by haunting characters or creepy white masks! The warehouse was completely unsettling. Dark rooms were connected by darker winding halls. I felt like I was in the middle of a horror movie, where the music playing was the build up right before I was about to be murdered. I was worried with every step that some ghostly character might jump out and grab me. Yet, a piece of advice uttered at the beginning of the show kept replaying in my head “Fortune favors the bold.” Welp, as it turns out, I am not bold. Not bold at all. In fact, I’m a big, fat chicken! I was terrified. Utterly and completely. Guys, I tried. I really did. I walked into dark rooms all by myself and I attempted to be bold and curious as I peered at the details of the set. Oh the details. The set was a character in and of itself. But I was afraid of it! No joke. I was petrified of every handwritten note, every haphazardly draped piece of clothing, the cabinet chock full of the number 11 playing cards. You name it. Every single thing gave me the creeps. Needless to say, fortune did not favor me.
And what is fortune, you might ask. Well, Sleep No More is known for providing one-on-one experiences for a handful of lucky attendees. I was fortunate enough to know this. I was not, however, bold enough to snag one of these coveted scenes even though I did have the opportunity.
One of the first scenes I stumbled upon was a maze of trees. I found my way through it and discovered a couple stairs at the end with a tiny shack at the top of the stairs. Masked audience members (myself included) were frantically trying to peek through the gaps in the weathered pieces of wood until the door slowly began to open revealing a woman dressed like a nurse and looking about how I felt – paralyzed with fear. At the time, it was only me and one other audience member witnessing her. Paranoid me cowered away to the side because I was freaked out by the nurse. The bold person next to me bravely stood directly at the bottom of the stairs and stared at the actor. I knew right away what was going to happen. The nurse locked eyes with the beaked observer. She slowly descended the stairs and grabbed that person’s hand taking them into the little shack with her. The door was locked behind them and a one-on-one was experienced. It could’ve been me, but I’m a baby, so I missed my chance. I attempted to peek through the cracks again, but when I couldn’t see anything I got the heck outta dodge.
While meandering through the building looking for scenes, my husband, other audience members, anything, I stumbled across a life-size statue of the Virgin Mary. I jumped. Honestly, I couldn’t help it. The building was dark and I thought a person was suddenly standing next to me. [Cue: Heartattack.]
For 2 more hours, I cautiously wandered through the warehouse and fell deeper and deeper into fear with each new set I came across. Like a room with beds lined up on either side of it. And another room with multiple bathtubs (I later learned this was a psych ward. Ahhhh!) I practically ran through these sets. Ok, maybe I did actually run a couple times.
Perhaps the most fascinating thing of all was the very last banquet scene, poetically performed in slow-motion. At the end of the dinner was the final scene of the show. It was hauntingly disturbing. Months, later, I’m still in utter shock as to what I witnessed.
Only after my soul was ripped from me was the audience directed out of the theatre and back to the bar area with fabulous performers filling every corner of the room with dance-worthy music. But I was too messed up to even appreciate the art they were creating. I just wanted to get the hell outta there ASAP.
Upon getting out to the peace and normalcy of the New York City street…
Jeff: “Seriously?! I loved it and could’ve stayed in there longer.”
Even this scared me. Who was this man? How was he not completely bothered by everything he’d just observed? He thought that was entertainment and not a horror flick? And it didn’t scare him?!I explained how I was terrified the entire time. How my heart rate never came down. How I wished that we had stayed together. And how I’d never been more scared in my entire life.
Naturally, after we shared our experiences, scenes we’d seen that the other hadn’t, talked about theories, pieced storylines together, and researched more online, I decided that not only am I willing to see it again, but I’m hoping I do get the chance. What a crazy trip.
If you’re braver than me, and aren’t offended by nudity and violence, buckle up and go see this production. Otherwise skip it, or be prepared to pee your pants.
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