Sunday, 7 June 2015

Sleep No More NYC

I've always been a little resistant of immersive theatre - I've seen enough uninspired attempts that put me off entirely for a long time. That began to change last year after I saw "Generation of Z" at the Edinburgh Fringe and saw what this form of theatre could be.

I'd heard of the company Punchdrunk (it was hard not to) from enthusiastic tweets for their production " The Drowned Man". Though my interest was piqued, I still felt a certain reluctance toward this kind of theatre and never actually made it before it closed. A fact I now regret.

I wouldn't want to tell too much about what waits for you at the McKittrick Hotel, as part of the pleasure is in the discovery, so instead I want to give an essence of what it feels like to experience "Sleep No More".

You begin your journey at the Manderley Bar. From here you are given masks for anonymity and detachment - you are a voyeur and spectator in the world you are about to visit, not an active

participant. That being said, you are encouraged to rifle through drawers, cupboards and anything else to which you have access. 

You are led to an elevator and told that fortune favours the bold (encouragement to be nosy and uninhibited) and that it's an individual experience, to go where your interest takes you (disappointingly too many people didn't heed this advice and clung to each other like the world would fall apart if they experienced anything for themselves - can you tell this is a bug bear of mine?)

As you leave the elevator, it's completely up to you - your "choose your own adventure" begins.

I won't say much more about what happens after this point, except a couple of points.

The storyline is loosely based around Macbeth with elements of Daphne Du Maurier's Rebecca mixed in. It's got the essence of a wordless 1930s film noir, the story is told through physicality and dance. The atmosphere feels nightmarish at times; chasing shady characters through dimly lit corridors to the beat of haunting soundscapes, surrounded by masked figures all linked in anonymity. 

If you're a gaming fan, like me, I found this experience somewhat akin to my old favourite point and click adventure games like Zork and Myst - just to give you some more texture to the feeling of being in this environment

Some tips, if you want them -If your unsure where to start, as you're let loose at the beginning, head for the basement (you don't have to obviously but this gives a good starting point for the uninitiated); if a performer is making eye contact with you, hold it - you may be about to experience a much coveted one-on-one 

And please, please people, go it alone. You'll get so much more out of it, and if you are there with friends, you'll all have different experiences to discuss when you meet up again at the end. 

I checked out of the McKittrick hotel that evening completely bewildered but equally intoxicated by the experience. I can't claim to understand what was going on after just one visit, but part of its beauty lies in the mystery. I understand now why many people return time and again, with so many character paths to follow, so many doors to open, I'm not sure the mystery at McKittrick hotel can ever be fully unlocked but the joy is in the journey and I certainly hope to be able to go again. 

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