Tuesday, July 5, 2011
Sleep When You're Dead
Most theater is a passive event, yes? You sit down amidst the stuffy and impossible-to-please theatrical elite, M&Ms munching and too-easy-to-please tourists in fanny packs, and a few normal people, and take in a play or musical for two hours. You can buy an overpriced CD or program on your way out as you bitch and/or laud what you just experienced. Ta-da! Acting! Theater! What an event!
Or you can go see Sleep No More. No. Wait. Scratch that. YOU MUST GO SEE SLEEP NO MORE. Well, not SEE Sleep No More. That's not entirely accurate. Because you'll be doing a lot of running, ducking, stair-climbing, drinking, peeking, drawer opening, and blood-wiping.
What is it? Oh that's a tricky question. Think of a giant haunted house, constructed from three side-by-side factories, made to look like a noir-era hotel. Inside are over a dozen cast members sometimes acting out Macbeth, sometimes acting out Alfred Hitchcock's Rebecca. Sometimes naked and having sex. Sometimes naked and killing each other. All of it done in relative silence.
This is a show you make. The cast members don't care about you. Their job is to run, dance, kill, and fuck in all of the 100-plus rooms and 100,000 square feet that make up the hotel (also in the building: a London street complete with stores, a cemetary, a garden, a hospital, a ball room, three hundred bedrooms, a ton of baths and abandoned baby carriages). And you can follow one of them, all of them, or none of them. You have the liberty to do whatever you like for your 3 hours at Sleep No More.
I, myself, spent an hour exploring every room, rifling through drawers, reading diaries, and wandering cemeteries. Then I started chasing down actors and trying to follow story lines. It was here I discovered something even cooler: if you're lucky, an actor may pull you aside into a room or shack or corner and deliver to you your own personal monologue that no one else gets to hear. This link is an exact moment I was lucky enough to experience. The tea, by the way, was terrible.
Oh, and you're instructed to wear a white ghost mask like something out of Eyes Wide Shut, and told not to talk at ALL for your entire stay. Which is cool. Most people followed that rule. And you get to be a creepy voyeur, watching all sorts of madness and dance unfold in front of you.
Each of the rooms is equal parts gorgeous and creepy. Temperature controlled, and with changing soundtracks and SMELLS it truly is the definition of transporting. Even entering the show requires you to fumble around many completely dark hallways, which certainly helps to disorient you. And you never know when the cemetary that was empty twenty minutes ago suddenly will be the setting for a dance featuring three witches, or a grave digger who carelessly flings dirt all over you. That bar may have a bar fight one minute, and a bunch of blood stained World War II nurses aborting a baby and dumping it into a mop bucket another minute. It's true chaos, all completely organized and choreographed. It's an experience you have NEVER had before (but hopefully will have again).
My one problem: lazy and old people. When the actors finish a scene in a room, they often spin 180 degrees and SPRINT out of the room, down flights of stairs, etc. to their next scene. Unfortunately for you, spry theater-goer, there are tons of Sleep No Morons (my term, feel free to use it) who are sort of idling and not sure what to do. By the end of my night, when I was DETERMINED to follow this hot gay character I caught fucking another hot gay man, I found myself LITERALLY flinging Sleep No Morons out of my way to keep up with the action.
When my party of four reconvened after the show, we had each seen completely different things in completely different rooms. There were few, if any, overlaps. Which is awesome. In video game land, we call that replay value. And this "show" has a buttload of that.
I must go again. You must go either for your first time, or again.
My friends plan on reprising our experience in a few weeks during an 11PM weekend show (this show goes til 2AM). I hope that most of the Sleep No Morons will be home and in bed by then. If not, I plan to petition the showrunners to have a "fit and active audience only" night, where you must show you are able and willing to RUN to follow a scene. If that fails, I plan on sending Sleep No Morons into walls and down flights of stairs in my pursuit of the drama.
Either way. Go see Sleep No More before it goes away some time in September. Just... don't order a drink at the bar. As scary as the show can get, nothing is more frightening than the price tag on their vodka cranberry.
- Justin Luke