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Sleep No More

August 6, 2011

I went to see Sleep No More last night. It was even more amazing than I expected. It’s theater, with dance and stage combat. Loosely based on the play Macbeth. Set in a 1940s hotel. Instead of being confined to a stage, you follow the actors around through a series of hotel rooms and staircases, shadowy and punctuated with touches of the macabre. The entire atmosphere is spooky and beautiful, sexy and ghoulish.
Imagine Neil Gaiman and Edgar Allen Poe, commissioning a dance troupe to put on a production of Macbeth by smoking opium and throwing the pages of the script up in the air in a hotel that could’ve been an alternate set for Casablanca. Then, for the love of God go see the thing. While everything I just wrote is true, these words don’t do the experience justice.

Behind the cut, some reflections on what the show was actually like, more for my own memory than to spoil anything for anyone.

Essentially, you make your own show by wandering through a dimly lit, 1940s hotel, punctuated by all kinds of spooky touches. As you move you encounter actors and dancers, caught in the act of fighting, romancing, or doing some kind of strange and compelling magic. Again, although I’m describing accurately, I’m not doing it justice. A spooky and magical, sort of feverish dream. Fragmentary, and atmospheric, intense visual poetry. Theater within theater plays within plays. a room that is a maze of bare tree branches. A terrifying riff on a child’s room full of broken toys. Bathtubs and bedrooms and bars and dead birds and arcane rituals. fighting that looks like loving, loving that looks like stage combat, blurring of all of these.

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