Sleep No More: A Mind-blowing Night of Immersive Theater

by Eileen, Travel Planner

For a year or so I’ve heard about Sleep No More.  Every so often a friend or colleague would express interest in going to see this show and I’d nod my head and say “Yeah, me too.”  I had heard very little about the content of the show itself, if you can even call it a show.  I knew three things though: it was based on Shakespeare’s Macbeth, you were bound to get lost in the maze of sets, and always be alert because an actor might just run over you.  Sleep No More is more than just a show; it’s a unique experience to everyone who ventures to the McKittrick Hotel.

Sleep No More opened over a year ago and its popularity has skyrocketed with visitors and native New Yorkers.  The performance takes place at a large warehouse between 10th and 11th Avenues in the Chelsea District.  The warehouse was converted specifically for this performance into the abandoned McKittrick Hotel.  You are given a playing card and are then split into groups according to your card number.  I was not too thrilled to be split from my friends, but I had been warned that this would happen.  Into the elevator you go, and you are instructed to put on a white mask.  You cannot take your mask off and you cannot talk to anyone.  Anonymity is key to this experience.  The actors are the only ones allowed to speak (they rarely do) and have their faces shown.

I had gotten into the elevator last, which meant I’d be the first to exit.  The operator said “Everyone out,” so I moved forward.  The hallway was dark, and the only light sources were the candles lit in corners of the room that opened into the hallway.  Scared out of my wits, I turned around to find no one behind me.  I was alone on the floor and the elevator seamlessly blended into the wall.  I am not ashamed to admit that I had a mini freak out.  I do not like haunted houses and I am somewhat afraid of the dark— this was my worst nightmare.  I truly considered turning back, but I talked myself into moving forward and exploring.

The floor was an abandoned hospital wing.  The attention to detail in the logs, the discarded beds, the medicine cabinets, the handwritten letters was stunning.  I treaded on passed the hospital wing and was suddenly in a graveyard with smoke and angelic statues.  I carried on and was in a room with Lady Macbeth and Macbeth.  I followed the crowd and made it to the ballroom with the cast performing a ragtime dance.

Once the cast finished they broke off, I picked one cast member to follow.  I still haven’t quite figured out who the actor was supposed to be, but I followed him into a small room that resembled a confessional and watched as he did a ballet routine.  At one point I ventured on past the actor and made my way upstairs.  I found a floor that resembled an early turn of the century street with brick roads and shops of every kind.  Of course, I found the candy shop and stuffed my pockets full of butterscotch for the train ride home.  When I came back out, two actors were engaged in a physical duel.  They ran into a small room off the main hallway and I followed.  As soon as I entered, the door was shut behind me and they continued their fight.  At one point an actor was thrown and landed on top of me.  The actor didn’t say a word, helped me steady myself, and continued on with the scene.

There are about five different floors to the warehouse— a bedroom, a graveyard, a hospital, a mental institution, a rave, and a ballroom.  The only way to travel is to climb the small stair cases up and down.  There is next to no light and a lot of produced smoke.  You will bump into people and stumble over people.  The actors move through out the entire production, so I suggest keeping on the move.  Various scenes take place twice so if the group is too big and you can’t see, move along.

I can go on and on about the various scenes I experienced, but I can’t even guarantee you’ll see the same thing I did.  The main idea of Sleep No More is that it can be anything you make it out to be.  If you disregard your fears, you can have an amazing time running after actors to catch a glimpse of a plot.  It took me a full hour and half to really warm up to the set and the whole idea of the performance.  I’m proud of myself because I lasted a lot longer than I had anticipated.  Fourteen hours later and I’m still not really sure of what I experienced, but I do know that I would like to attend again.   It was a true New York experience that I can’t recommend enough.

If you have questions about Sleep No More or you’d like to book a package including tickets, feel free to e-mail me at efitzgerald@newyorkguest.com for more information!

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Filed under New York Stories, Out on the Town

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