Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More, the interactive theater rendition of Macbeth, (recently extended through September) takes place in over one hundred shadow-filled rooms where audience members don white Venetian masks and are encouraged to explore and follow the characters that pique their curiosity. Artistic director Felix Barrett says it’s intended to empower the audience. “We want them to come out having found some moment they can own, theirs and theirs alone.”
The decisions are tough. Should you rifle through the numerous desk drawers or caress the taxidermy pheasants and peacocks? Sip a Manderley cocktail (nod to Hitchcock) in the speakeasy-inspired lounge or doggedly trail the elusive Macbeth?
You may even be one of the lucky few whisked into a private room for a mysterious encounter with one of the characters. Those incredibly secret chambers are among Barrett’s favorites: “Lady Macbeth has a small chapel that only three people a night see, you can smell the incense; it’s very private. Also Hecate’s chamber, it has an intense darkness.”
Set design inspiration came from classic 30’s cinema and the avant-garde stage director Robert Wilson. Barrett and his team of designers spent five months scouring obscure flea markets and remote New England towns to find the minuscule details, everything from “a lot of human teeth to taxidermy rams.”
Post-show, the main question lingering is, what happens to the elaborate set? “When the show is over, [my] living room is never going to be the same again,” Barrett laughs.
If you miss out before September, Punchdrunk has a travel experience in the works where audience members board a (real) flight to an unknown destination. “We want to reinvent tourism,” Barrett says.
Masked photo: Alick Crossley; all others courtesy of Punchdrunk