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Sleep No More

by Akhil Kalepu

Oct 5, 2014

© Leon Rafael | Dreamstime


You might have read Macbeth in high school, but English class didn’t do the tragedy justice. For a completely new take on Shakespeare and theater in general, take a look into Sleep No More, an interactive, site-specific play located in Chelsea’s gallery district and presented by Punchdrunk, a British company that pioneered the immersive theater form.


The performance takes place in the fictional McKittrick Hotel, actually three warehouses repurposed as a six-story venue. Guests are required to wear Venetian-style carnival masks and remain silent, adding an eerie effect to the wordless play, but also freeing the audience under the veil of anonymity and letting them explore the various intricacies of the performance. The first floor contains the Manderley Bar where guests can return any time and take off their masks.


Once upstairs, you are free to explore and interact with anything in the hotel. Everyone’s experience is different and new with each visit, with simultaneous performances taking place, constantly ebbing and flowing throughout the building. If a character suddenly storms out the door, a guest can choose whether to stay and see the reaction or follow the drama somewhere else. Rooms range from ballrooms to nurseries to hospital wards, all decorated with the upmost attention to detail, so feel free to rummage through drawers and page through books.


This isn’t somewhere you are going to gain new insight into Shakespeare. The non-linear, wordless format isn’t intended to function as a single performance, rather it breaks down theater into its most primal form, just human movement and interaction and the audience interpreting it.



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