How Punchdrunk Theatre Reels ‘em In With Immersive Storytelling

When London’s Punchdrunk Theatre Company opened Sleep No More in March 2011 in an abandoned warehouse block in New York, few imagined it would still be running a year later. A strangely wordless interpretation of Macbeth as filtered through film noir with a nod to Hitchcock, Sleep No More defies every convention of theater.

'Sleep No More' is odd, but valuable

The philosopher Slavoj Žižek once said, “We have a perfect name for fantasy realized. It’s called ‘nightmare.’” But it could just as easily be defined by “Sleep No More,” a show that exposes the viewer to one of the most bizarre stagings of “Macbeth” in recent memory.

Falstaff Awards

Sleep No More won a crap ton of Falstaff Awards. 

No ‘Sleep’ for partiers

So this happened not even a week after I wondered on Twitter about how fraking cool a collaboration between Björk and Punchdrunk would be. 

“Sleep No More” played host to a vow renewal for Jane’s Addiction frontman Perry Farrell and an Icelandic choir performance by Björk’s backup singers Monday night at McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea. Lollapalooza creator Farrell renewed his vows with his wife of 10 years, Etty Lau Farrell, in the venue’s downstairs Manderley Bar. Sources told us the traditional Jewish service included a rabbi, a chuppah and their children, Herzon Wolfgang and Izzadore Bravo, breaking the glass while guests sipped Beau Joie Champagne. Upstairs, Björk held a wrap party for her world tour with her crew and the crew from the “Sleep” production, including Evan Rachel Wood, who guest-performed Saturday and Monday. The dress code for Björk’s event was described as “formal science” with guests dressed as molecules and atoms. Spies said at one point, Björk directed everyone to McKittrick’s outdoor forest maze, where her backup singers serenaded the crowd. Eventually the two parties, which included Kim CattrallMichael Stipe and Cindy Sherman, merged and went on until early morning
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Happy Anniversary, Sleep No More

A year ago today I was having a very rough day at work and just wanted to go home and collapse. My friend Matt called and said, hey remember that really cool show our friend John is working on? It opens tonight and he got us tickets, want to go?

And I said no. I really wanted to take a nap. But you’ll get to chase sexy dancers around a dark warehouse for three hours, he said. That doesn’t sound very interesting, I said. Just fucking come with me, he insisted.

So I walked over to W 27th St., got in line and was given a 4 card. Soon I was walking through a dark maze with the overture from “The Man Who Knew Too Much” blasting in my ears. I came into a strangely calm, red velvet lounge and a man named Maximilian told me to step into the next chamber. Mask on, elevator go, fortune favors the bold.

I entered on the third floor. An apartment, a graveyard, a bedroom. I went up to the fourth floor. I was amazed by the size of the place. I went to the ballroom and checked my watch. Okay, that’s a cool set, but what do I do for the next two hours?

Then shortly after that, back on the fourth floor, two men ran by. I followed them. They went into a dark room and then the door slammed shut, right in my face. And locked.

I spent the next hour and a half following a character I later learned was Macduff, knowing that if I stayed close, the next time that door slammed shut I’d be on the other side. And that’s how I got hooked.

After tonight’s show, my twentieth, it’s now up to 60 hours of chasing sexy dancers in that dark warehouse. Thank you for an incredible year of theater, Sleep No More. I never expected this. I can’t believe I was ever reluctant. But, you’ve taught me that fortune does favor the bold.

Is that all there is? Oh no. Oh goodness no.

Tracking the Scottish Play: The Sounds of Sleep No More

While highly effective, the music (and I’m guessing all or most sound) in SNM was taken from existing recordings. There was no original music composed just for the show. Because the show is so impeccably executed overall, I can discard the notion that they simply could not find a composer to work with and instead went dumpster diving for old LPs. They clearly wished to evoke a certain prohibition-era feeling and nothing does that like playing scratchy recordings from that era, give or take a couple decades.

Probably the only Sleep No More crossover I’ll ever make (Sleepnomore Crossoverfanfic has that territory totally covered).

But surely, if you’ve read Thomas Mann’s The Magic Mountain, you have probably thought to yourself, as I often have, that it would make for quite the piece of immersive theater. You know, set it in an old hotel or hospital, have a mysterious Russian woman slamming doors here and there, Hermine Kleefeld all piping away with her pneumothorax, the absurd Settembrini-Naphtha duel, and then this, Hans Castorp’s bad day in a snowstorm.

It’ll never get produced, so enjoy the magic of a little creative re-scoring. 

We stopped by Manderley last night for the bittersweet occasion of hearing Lola Baxter sing there for the last time as the cast and crew gathered to give her a big send-off. She’s an incredible performer and a delightful presence, and has been a big part of making the place what it is over the past year. Best wishes to Annie! We’ll miss you and hope to hear your lovely voice again soon. 

We stopped by Manderley last night for the bittersweet occasion of hearing Lola Baxter sing there for the last time as the cast and crew gathered to give her a big send-off. She’s an incredible performer and a delightful presence, and has been a big part of making the place what it is over the past year. 

Best wishes to Annie! We’ll miss you and hope to hear your lovely voice again soon. 

I Sleep No More … Again

Fantastic reader submission:

Hi! I’ve been to SNM three times (I know, I’m behind), attended Hecate’s Valentine after party (made the red masks in the photos you reblogged from melissaanelli) and am currently trying not to go insane with the anticipation of my fourth visit on March 1st!

I was just looking back at something I wrote in Dec. after my second visit and my very first one-on-one. It was with Banquo (Jeffery Lyon.) Since I’ve noticed that you have a fondness for Banquo, I wanted to share. You probably get a ton of these stories, so thanks for taking the time to read it! Here’s a link to the post on my blog (I’m not a tumblr user):

http://bloodonthetypewriter.com/snm/

Thanks so much for sending this from a fellow Banquo fan. (Gabe was my first 1:1 and I miss seeing him dance). 

Touch Everything, Follow Everyone

BY FAR the coolest review of  / response to Sleep No More we’ve yet seen: