In March 2011, when London’s Punchdrunk Theatre Company opened Sleep No More in an abandoned warehouse block in New York, few imagined it would still be running a year later. A strangely wordless interpretation of Macbeth as filtered through film noir with a nod to Hitchcock, Sleep No More defies every convention of theater. It has no stage, no seats, takes place in a labyrinth of oddly decorated rooms, and requires audience members to wear Venetian-style masks but gives them no clue how to respond to what’s going on—which can be anything from nothing at all to a naked man in a bloody bathtub.
Photo: Sara Krulwich/The New York Times
The Macbeths in a private moment, as seen in Punchdrunk's Sleep No More
“What is it?” asked Punchdrunk producer Colin Nightingale over breakfast the other day. “An art experience? A piece of theater? Nightlife? We don’t want to tell you. We think our audience is intelligent enough to work it out.” Apparently they are—for not only is Sleep No More still running, it’s playing to sellout crowds. The best explanation anyone can come up with: It’s immersive. Surreally, voyeuristically, even hypnotically immersive.