MEMETERIA by Thomas May

Music & the Arts

Theater Obsessives and Super-Fans

Sleep No More

Sleep No More, a much-touted, site-specific, silently acted take on Macbeth by the British theater group Punchdrunk, has been running at the  McKittrick Hotel for several years. This imaginary “decadent luxury hotel” from the 1930s, which is said to have been condemned before it ever opened to the public, is in reality a set of adjoining warehouses in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan.

With its audience members asked to don masks and invited to engage silently with the play’s characters while roaming about the eerie maze of fictional hotel rooms spread across five floors, the entire performative concept radically smashes down the fourth wall.

Tara Isabella Burton’s fascinating observations about her protracted experience with Sleep No More — and about the legendary super-fans who’ve become obsessed with reinhabiting this world in visit after visit — remind me of the dynamics of opera: of the immersive intensity that opera, allegedly the paragon of artistic “artificiality,” encourages:

Yet how real is real? For Sleep No More to succeed as a piece of theater, it must convince its audience — at least for the three hours of the show — that their interactions with Lady Macduff or Malcolm are true relationships, emotionally fraught on both sides. And yet to do so is to fuse fiction and reality in a manner that may feel uncomfortable, even dangerous, and on both sides (stalking on the part of besotted fans is not unheard of).

(Image: from Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More: Sara Krulwich for the NY Times)

Filed under: Shakespeare, theater


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