This weekend I finally saw Sleep No More with my BFF from back home. We got tickets back in January and our number was finally up. Ordinarily I’m a little unnerved by theater that breaks the fourth wall or tries to touch me or roams the colonial village in period-approximate garb, but whoever introduced the idea of having all the participants wear masks gets an extra ladle of goat blood because it takes the pressure right off and let me stop worrying about what other people were thinking by trying to read their faces.
It’s obvious who the stars of the show are (they are not wearing masks and sometimes are varying degrees of naked/writhing), who the show’s employees are (they are wearing black masks and freaking you the hell out when you bump into them in the forest of Birnum which in a minute will be the banquet hall), and who the other attendees are (they, like you, are wearing white masks that cover their faces). So I didn’t feel the need to worry about reacting appropriately because nobody would know it was me anyway.
My Floridian roommate had already gone a few times, and he had told me to be sure and touch all the things. So the first thing I did was ditch the crowd who got off the elevator with me, find my way into a study with a desk in it, and start opening drawers. I advise anyone going for the first time to do something similar — get it over with and just start paging through bizarre documents. I don’t want to ruin anything about the layout or the features of the show, because my first hour was just exploring. After that I started trying to follow the Macbeth threads, and eventually my attention to the Hecate character landed me in a one-on-one in a little room where she recited poetry at me and even took my MASK OFF but I’ve said too much.
The experience is unlike anything I’ve ever done before and I’ve hardly stopped thinking about it since. From a theater perspective, from a Shakespearean enthusiast perspective, from pretty much any perspective, there is enough stimuli and activity and commentary and thematic exploration to keep your mind humming on this show for days. Going on 5 days here. It was profoundly cool and weird and stressful and I really need to get in there one more time because I almost had the hang of it and it was time to leave.
My dreams that night were full of long hallways and unexpected doors and I kept thinking of people I wished were there to see it with me while simultaneously being glad I was on my own (Sally and I were sorted into different groups and only caught glimpses of eachother periodically). It was scary but I knew I was safe, and coming through that to the other side was a new sensation all together.