Sunday, August 14, 2011

Sleep No More

Sleep No More is an interactive theatrical performance that at times seems like a videogame come to life. It begins in a dimly lit bar, where audience members are greeted by a woman straight out of the Victorian era and a dapper man who calls people his “lovelies.” After grabbing a drink or two, everyone is given white masks, told to put them on and escorted to a cramped elevator. They are then unceremoniously dropped into a six-floor mansion and told to dig, explore and be curious — because “fortune favors the bold.”
From then on it’s an adventure, an open-world romp that feels like a blend of L.A. Noire and Cirque du Soleil. People can examine random objects throughout the grandiose scenes and sets, follow actors around the mansion and try to piece together parts of the story, which is based heavily on Shakespeare’s Macbeth. It’s a nonlinear narrative in which the order of events — and consequently, the plot — is determined by what you see.

The primary problem with this method of storytelling is that you’re not really part of it.

The porter (Matthew Oaks) sits at a typewriter, audience members watching in the background. 
(Photo: Yaniv Schulman)

Sleep No More has two rules: Keep your mask on and don’t talk to anybody. Outside those restrictions, you can do whatever and go wherever you want. At one point you might wind up in a dimly lit graveyard, alone and terrified. Then you’re in a ballroom, where garishly dressed gentlemen and ladies are dancing to an infectious beat. Next you’re in a pantry, opening jars of candy and trying to decide whether eating them will kill you. Problem is, nothing you do really matters.
Audience members will never see the whole show. The actors and actresses will perform scenes that some people won’t get to glimpse, simply because they were in the wrong place or got caught up in a packed crowd of other sweaty onlookers. There are no save games or replays; in order to see everything, you’ll have to buy tickets again.

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