If you know me or you are following me on Twitter you most likely will have noticed that I have developed a slight addiction to a certain theatre company over the past months. I discovered Punchdrunk through their production The Drowned Man which I ended up attending a total of 32 times between March 2nd and July 6th 2014. It was more than “just” a show for me. The Drowned Man was another world and its residence Temple Studios a place I loved to “live” in for a couple of hours each week.
Sadly Temple Studios closed its doors forever on 6th July and since then I have experienced the worst withdrawal symptoms in my life. It’s funny that a theatre production can have such a huge impact especially considering the short amount of time I had been visiting the show but losing Temple Studios really felt like losing a second home.
In the end it was only natural to visit the only place I felt could cure my withdrawal symptoms: The McKittrick Hotel in New York, home of Punchdrunk’s Sleep no more.
Sleep no more is loosely based on Macbeth with a few references to Rebecca. Like all Punchdrunk poductions it is a site specific, immersive experience that sends the audience on an individual journey. Please have a look at my review of The Drowned Man to get some basic info about how a Punchdrunk show works – trust me, it’s very different to a regular theatre experience.
My first visit to The Drowned Man was overwhelming, confusing and impossible to put into words. And even though I would class myself as “advanced” in terms of Punchdrunk (meaning I know how to approach their productions) I was excited about experiencing this feeling of confusion and slight disorientation again. Not knowing what is going to happen when you enter a room or follow a character is a real thrill which obviously wears off once you are really familiar with a production. Having said that, even in my last visits to Temple Studios I discovered new things and the excitement of being in some way a part of The Drowned Man never disappeared.
Sleep no more is set in the McKittrick, a 1930s hotel. It is clear to see that Punchdrunk were inspired by the film noir genre – the set is dark and gloomy and the atmosphere inside the hotel is anxious. The show is less vocal than The Drowned Man – almost everything is expressed through dance and movement. There are five floors (six if you count the balcony on the bottom level as a separate floor) and about 100 rooms to explore although only very few chosen audience members will be able to access the very top floor (I was lucky enough to get there early on in my first visit completely by chance). A lot of the characters in the show are taken out of Shakespeare’s Macbeth including Macbeth himself, Lady Macbeth, Macduff, Lady Macduff, the three witches and Banquo. Beside the Macbeth characters you will encounter nurses, the Taxidermist, Mr. Fulton (a tailor) and several others, some of them inspired by the novel Rebecca.
From The Drowned Man I know that personally I’m getting the most out of a Punchdrunk show by following characters for full loops. This is one but not the only way to approach a Punchdrunk show. Others may prefer to explore the sets or watch scenes but not actually follow a specific character. This is the beauty of Punchrunk productions – there is no right or wrong approach. During my stay in New York I visited The McKittrick three times following different characters. It’s impossible to give a detailed review of my shows but I can tell you that I had the most amazing time following Jesse Kovarsky’s Boy With and Paul Zivkovich’s Macbeth. Both performers put so much heart and soul into their performance, it was mesmerising to watch. Having said that, I enjoyed seeing Conor Doyle’s Porter immensely and spent a brilliant loop with Luke Murphy’s Macduff.
Sleep no more is a theatrical experience that is hard to describe. Words just don’t do it justice, it needs to be experienced. But please trust me on this: It’s an experience you don’t want to miss. If you get the chance please go and check into the McKittrick Hotel.
And for everyone interested, here are a few tips for first timers that will hopefully help you to get the most out of your experience and leave a good impression on your fellow audience members.
1. Comfortable footwear and light clothing – you will be walking around a lot and it does get quite warm in there.
2. Follow closely but don’t glue yourself to a character and be considerate of those around you.
3. Open drawers, try opening closed doors, look into closets – there’s so much to discover.
4. Watch the rave – follow Macbeth or any of the witches to get there.
5. Find the candy shop on the fourth floor and help yourself to some sweets.
6. Eye contact is everything – when a performer looks you in the eyes, don’t look away.
7. The fifth floor seems pretty deserted most of the time but have a look around and you might be rewarded.
8. The narrow stair cases can be a pain – be considerate and don’t block the way by walking up and down really slowly. Let others pass if they are following a character and you are not.
9. Don’t mess with props – looking at things is fine but stealing or hiding stuff is not.
10. Spend time with the Speakeasy for a chance to get a free drink.
And now go and book your stay at The McKittrick. It’s inhabitants can’t wait to meet you.