Every once in a while we experience something that truly transforms everything we thought we knew about theatre. This is certainly the case for me last Thursday attending — no experiencing — Punchdrunk’s production Sleep No More.
Imagine a theatrical mashup including elements of the following: wandering into a real live installation of Silent Hill; becoming the forbidden voyeur in Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut complete with masks and competition with fellow participants for the prime viewing angle; and navigating through a visual, auditory, and olfactory melange of arresting 30’s Hitchcockian noir haunted house complete with exquisite costume designs and the cocktails and crooners to match (there’s always the bar with some fabulous absinthe concoction). If you happen to be an antique fanatic as well, hold on to your seat because evidently every source on the east coast was scoured to fill the 100+ rooms in period detail on the order of nothing i have ever seen in my life — a veritable gigantic cabinet of curiosities. A madlib with neverending choices.
All this is set in the fictional McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea and based loosely on Macbeth. Absolutely stunning.
Surely I have never seen anything like it and am literally FREAKING OUT wanting to return and follow each and every character and read every piece of paper and overturn every tooth and piece of hair and death portrait and… well, there it is. If this an immersive theatrical experience i never want to go back to anything else.
That said, i wasn’t without some amount of conflict and annoyance at the competitive aspect. Want to follow a main character? Well be ready to elbow your way through 30 other people literally running, some people hand in hand (really?!), from scene to scene. If you are a little more reclusive and voyeuristic like i am, you will be perfectly happy doing you own thing and reveling in the wonderland of wire mesh baby bodies hanging above a crib from a single strings, a detective office, a graveyard, notes in coffins, an apothecary to die for… more antique religious paraphernalia and nature prints than a lover of such accoutrement could ever fathom – half the time i was plotting how i could possibly stash that turn of the century statue or crucifix or creepy 19c Audubon-esque bird drawing into my shirt and abscond. but i want to do it again.. and find and see things i didn’t see, and follow characters i didn’t follow. Did i do it right? i dont’ know, but is there a right way ?
Maybe that is the point — you can’t possibly ever do it the same twice and *that* is where the true brilliance of this production shines through.
I can’t wait to go back next weekend.