New York City Does Murder Sleep

Emursive presents Punchdrunk’s SLEEP NO MORE in NYC. Shakespeare’s fallen hero; a film noir shadow of suspense, now showing through to September, but good luck getting tickets I think it’s sold out. Recently attending a showing of “Sleep No More” at the McKittrick Hotel was by far one of the most memorable experiences while I was in New York, and quite possibly my lifetime. “Sleep No More” is like a drug free acid trip dreamlike experience that you don’t want to end.

Completed in 1939, the McKittrick Hotel was intended to be New York City’s finest and most decadent luxury hotel of its time. Six weeks before opening, and two days after the outbreak of World War II, the legendary hotel was condemned and left locked, permanently sealed from the public. Until now...

Seventy-two years later, EMURSIVE has brought the Grande Dame back to life. Collaborating with London’s award-winning PUNCHDRUNK, the legendary space is reinvented with SLEEP NO MORE, presenting Shakespeare’s classic Scottish tragedy through the lens of suspenseful film noir. Audiences move freely through a transporting world at their own pace, choosing their own path through the story, immersed in the most unique theatrical experience in the history of New York’  – http://sleepnomorenyc.com/hotel.htm

Sleep No More is all the rage in New York, and it is taking the city by storm. Currently extended yet again, and completely sold out, the company never spent any time or money advertising, relying solely on word of mouth; the fact we got tickets was a miracle. 

This is what we knew going into the hotel: we knew that the play is a spin off of Macbeth and the film ‘Eyes Wide Shut’. We knew we needed to wear a mask, and follow the characters around the space. We knew that we might get soaked in fake blood, and that we should wear sensible shoes. We didn’t know that it was an individual experience. 
We walk in and it’s completely black, I mean like pitch black, the hall way just to check in is like a maze. I felt like Alice in Wonderland when the little guy with the broom tail sweeps away her path leaving her stranded. After feeling our way, alas we arrive and our coats are taken. I’m also so brave as to abandon my purse. I walk in wearing nothing but my mask and the little-black-I-don’t-If-it-gets-ruined-dress purchases at H&M for 12.99$. 

We are then encouraged to go to the bar and have a drink, the bar is 40s inspired with plenty of red. However, before I can even decide what I want to drink my number is called and I’m off. Suddenly aware of the hairs on my neck I get called into the elevator with a handful of strangers wearing masks.

I go in the elevator where we are welcomed to The McKittrick Hotel and reminded that there is no talking and the masks MUST be warn at all times. We are then assured that “nothing is as it seems”. As we ride the elevator a man says to a girl standing next to me “Oh it looks like your lucky day” and then turns to me sharply, looks me right in my terrified eyes and says “but not yours” and he kicks me off the elevator. 

The hotel itself is enough to mimic the blood and horror that is featured in the play; there is a general eerie presence that fills the entire Hotel. It’s difficult to explain, but it definitely sets the tone for a blood bath murderous villain like MacBeth. 

All by myself I begin to wonder around like a little lost child. I got stuck in a forest that seemed to have no exit and then found myself in a padded room wearing a straight jacket. I rummaged through draws, I pulled off covers from rows of small beds, I read love notes from Lady Macbeth, I tried to find keys to cabinets that didn’t exist, I found chests full of human hair samples, and I bravely ate candy from unidentified jars. 

The attention to detail at the McKittrick was really shocking. I just taught Macbeth to my grade 11 class, and so every detail of that play is etched in my brain, and consequently all over this hotel. Even the little vials in the doctor’s office where labelled “Glamis and Co.” Which if you are familiar with the play you know Macbeth is “Thane of Glamis” before he is given the title “Thane of Cawdor” confirming the first of the witches prophecy as true.

Slowly making my way through the labyrinthine hotel, which holds dozens of individual sets I didn’t find anyone for a really long time. Absorbed in my own little world of discovery I completely forgotten that I was at a play. Then it was like all of the sudden I stumbled upon loud old 40s jazz music and everyone else. It felt like I woke up from some kind of stupor, and it seemed like the rest of the audience knew what they were doing. When I found a huge cluster of people, in what looked like Lady Macbeth’s chamber. Macbeth had just come in with bloody hands, and so I figured he must have just killed Duncan, and thought great I didn’t miss the entire play due to curiosity.

But then when Lady Macbeth grabbed my arms, shook me, and looked my in eyes blankly begging me to “unsex” her I realized the play wasn’t linear. What a head trip, I followed her around as he threw herself up against walls, and went through a series of dressing and undressing. 

When Macbeth came back and I followed him, I got disoriented and ran full force into a wall, smashed my masked face, and knocked myself completely on my rear end. Then I was led to what I perceived as the famous Banquet scene where Macbeth is haunted by Banquo’s Ghost, but this scene was Punchdrunk style a la slow motion. This proved to be some impressive acting, how the characters were able to hold their bodies and their positions that long is beyond me. Macbeth moved quickly and so there was a lot of running upstairs, through hallways, and people. You never knew where he was going to go, and if you lost him even for a second that was it: you were lost. 

One of my favourite scenes would have to be the rave inspired baby sacrifice dance scene. The upbeat techno music combined with strobe lighting, and a bloody baby sacrifice is enough to send anyone’s senses into madness. 

What is truly unique about this experience is that you and I could go, but we could equally have completely different experiences. Your experience is individual and what you do is entirely up to you, and what you make of it. The bold are rewarded. 

Sleep No More was the first of three 1940s anthologies of fantasy and horror stories edited by August Derleth and illustrated by Lee Brown Coye. It was first published byRinehart & Company in 1944. Featuring short stories by H. P. LovecraftRobert E. HowardClark Ashton Smith and other noted authors of the macabre genre, many of the stories made their initial appearance in Weird Tales magazine” – says Wikipedia. 

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