After rambling about it to anyone who would listen and thinking about it so much it invaded my dreams, I decided I had to go back to Sleep No More. You may remember my first visit, or had it related over drinks as I tried to recreate for you encountering a bloody dance scene involving a ram’s head in a bar or finding myself alone with a character as she recited a story to me. If not, I’ll give you the quick summary of what Sleep No More is, because to just call it a play or an artist’s haunted house or a club that happens to have a taxidermy shop doesn’t exactly cover it.
It’s billed as an interactive, immersive production of Macbeth, utilizing 100 rooms in a building in Chelsea that have been transformed into everything from a hotel lobby for the McKittrick Hotel, the Vertigo locale where supposedly where this is all taking place, to a witch’s hut. While there is an almost constant soundtrack of music, some played from radios, others from hidden speakers, the actors are mostly mute and the audience is asked to do the same. Also, all the audience members wear white, Eyes Wide Shut-type masks (shown above). Besides that, you are free to roam, find the fragments of plot to stitch together, chase after characters, and open any drawer or door, assuming it is unlocked for you.
Unlike my first visit, I knew what to expect as I got my playing card that served as my ticket and winded through the dark hallways to the bar with its David Lynchian red curtains and enthusiastic emcee. This means I didn’t have to immediately get an expensive gimlet to calm my nerves. I was worried that there wouldn’t be as much to discover, yet while I now sort of know the lay out, I only saw two scenes that I’d previously witnessed, and even then the dancers were different, making it a new experience. I was less stressed out about seeing every single room and could let myself focus more on the action. With a whole three hours worth of new information, I’m able to connect little dots, like characters who were talking to each other on the phone, or figure out where the seemingly random brawls that broke out in the streets had boiled up from. I feel like I have more depth to the experience. I really loved a review I read where someone said it was almost like we were haunting these awful, horrible moments the characters were trapped in. That although we were the ones acting like ghosts, they were like phantoms spinning over the same doomed paths, we were just their witnesses, unable to change their fates.
It’s a disorienting experience and, as before, I’m left with what feels like a disjointed dream with vivid moments. I remember holding an umbrella for the undertaker as he buried bones in the graveyard, the same bones I’d seen clawed out by the taunting taxidermist. I watched one of the witches literally climb up a wall and Hecate give a deeply disturbing performance to a slowed down Peggy Lee song that will stay with me for a while. I discovered a secret passageway and a tiny cemetery hidden away in a previously closed room. I felt the echo of “blood will have blood” throughout the tormented space. Even though it seemed a little more crowded that my last visit, I still found myself alone with characters and at the end of the night the same woman I’d encountered before led me by the hand back down to the bar and left me with a kiss on the cheek. The next day I noticed dark dirt on the bottom of my boots and realized it was from the graveyard.
The show has just been extended again to mid-September, so go if you can! If nothing else, so that we can discuss everything in the detail that I don’t want to reveal here. And you know I’ll go with you, because I could go broke attending this thing. Or should I just redecorate my apartment with some red curtains and maybe a secret graveyard? Sounds nice. I’m unscrewing all the lightbulbs now.