Sleep No More

2 weeks ago, I took my friend to a truly unique play for her birthday. Sleep No More was the name of the “play” (which the Shakesperean among you might recognise as a line from Macbeth). It really was a whole lot more than a play though; it was an “immersive theatre production” and the whole experience was stunningly amazing. The “stage” was a big, old, 5-storey warehouse with literally hundreds of rooms all immaculately and intricately decorated to feel just like the 1920s hotel that this reimagined story was set in. The 16 or so “actors” moved through the house of their own accord, playing their own parts on a 1-hr loop and interacting with each other in silence. We, the “audience” were free to wander around the house and explore however we saw fit – by searching through rooms and following any actor we came across.

My friend and I loved the perfect atmosphere that was created from the moment that we lined up on the cold street in Chelsea and received a stamp of a thistle on our hands. This would be the first of many small clues over the next 3 hours that would eventually lead my unsuspecting friend to realise that she was witnessing the story of Macbeth, but set in prohibition times. Even the elegant speakeasy had fitting cocktails and glamourous flappers serving them, as we waited for our invitation to enter the McKittrick Hotel. This is where we were handed white, ghostly masks and instructed to “be bold, search everything and pursue whatever we found interesting.”

We wore our white masks at all times, which made us feel like anonymous voyeurs and distinguished us from the unmasked actors. The dim lighting and eerie soundscapes were cleverly deployed to increase our desire to search through this creepy maze of a hotel and uncover all kinds of strange items in each room. There was even 2 “outdoor” settings, where large, open warehouse floors had been decorated to look like a hedged garden and the eerie ruins of buildings. In the whole 3 hours, I wasn’t able to find any sign of modern times, as every decoration and prop had been painstakingly selected or created to fit the location perfectly.

Sometimes I saw actors wandering around and I ignored them to continue my searching of the hotel, but other times I followed them to see what they’d do next. I stumbled upon Lady Macbeth comforting her husband as he washed the blood from his hands. I witnessed Macbeth killing the king. I observed Lady Macbeth go mad and fall into a bathtub, naked. I spied the 3 witches dance and revel in unison. Whenever the actors fought or conversed, the conversation was expressed silently through dance as they threw each other over the furniture or up the walls. Every actor had their own story which I could only piece together from the fragments that I saw as I wandered the hotel. My friend and I had to sit and talk about it for hours afterwards to try and process what we’d just experienced and I’m certain that the mysterious scenes will haunt my memory for a long time.

Double Double Toil and Trouble –
Rowan Atkinson and Hugh Laurie write Hamlet –

7 Responses to “Sleep No More”
  1. sherine says:

    I wanted to go to this last time we were in NY but they had sold out! We are going to another production by the same guys – Punchdrunk in London… Am dragging Lloyd to an unnamed destination in Dalston…will let you know how it goes :)

  2. kdisleaze says:

    That sounds like such an amazing unique experience, something I’d love to go to!!! So Sherine, if Lloyd gets cold feet about Punchdrunk, I’ll go with you! ;)

  3. Nato says:

    Oh that’s exciting! Lloyd, totally do it. It’d be a shame to waste such a rich experience on a Scotty.

  4. Scott and Al says:

    Nathan you have missed your calling. You should be writing for lonely planet or some other travel reviewer. Wish I could go. It sounds like a blast.

  5. A great review, Nathan

  6. Scott and Al says:

    That sounds absolutely incredible. What an experience. Wish I was there xxx Al

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