Off the beaten path of theatre hubs in Manhattan—away from Times Square’s packed theatre district, far from the downtown cabaret scene— the McKittrick Hotel continues to host the award-winning theatrical experience Sleep No More, an immersive, site-specific telling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, deprived of nearly all spoken dialogue and set primarily in a dimly-lit, 1930s-era establishment called the “McKittrick Hotel”.
Contrary to what some believe, Sleep No More is not any kind of haunted attraction. In their exploration, audience members can come upon instances of full nudity, bright lights (including strobe lights), lasers, fog, and haze, as well as being separated from the rest of their party.
Be prepared for a one-of-a-kind experience and enter Sleep No More with an open mind. No two visits are exactly the same and the film noir vibe makes for a mysterious, sensual, and exciting evening.
The performance will be intense. To unwind at the end, head back to where you begin the evening: Manderley Bar, a Parisian-inspired club where an in-house band plays swinging jazz music with a rotating lineup of singers.
What you need to know before you go:
1 – This is an individual experience
The email that guests receive upon their impending experience does note that the work is best experienced individually, and that audience members might experience “intense psychological situations.”
Because the action moves all around the hotel, Sleep No More is crafted as choose-your-own-adventure.
While you can attend with friends, on a date, or in a group, don’t expect to stay together—and don’t be that person that holds hands with your partner the entire show. A physical link will block other people from navigating the space, since performers move quickly from room to room. Embrace the individuality of your path and go where the action or your interests take you.
2 – You’ll be wearing a mask
“Without the mask, it would all collapse. The mask is our theater seat,” says Barrett. The white, Scream-esque masks that are handed out preshow offer anonymity and encourage attendees to get close to the actors and scenery. Guests are told to not remove the cover at any point during the show.
3 – There may be some interaction with actors
Most of the time the actors will pass through a group of guests like ghosts, as they tend to focus on acting out their storylines. However, there are opportunities for more direct contact; actors have been known to lead guests into rooms for one-on-one scenes.
4 – Immersive also means interactive
When it opened in 2011, Sleep No More launched the immersive theatre trend. While experiential theatre is more common now, there are still things to know before you go.
The audience is an integral piece of this theatre. Actors will approach individual attendees, whisper in your ear, kiss you on the hand. While performers gauge the comfort of those they get close to, if you don’t want this type of interaction—no problem. Situate yourself within the crowd instead of at the very front.
5 – Find a cast member to follow as soon as you can
The set of Sleep No More feels like a living museum. Walk into a doctor’s office set and page through his appointment book; pass through a courtyard set and hang laundry on the clothesline. But ultimately, you’re there to see the action and even performers who begin solo eventually meet up with other artists with more bombast and impact. If you want some semblance of a coherent story, your best bet is to follow one actor (maybe Macbeth himself) from scene to scene. However, some scenes get crowded with other audience members, and it’s hard to keep up with the actors running from room to room and floor to floor. If you would rather take the show at your own speed, it’s just as fulfilling to wander around, exploring rooms and stumbling upon smaller moments. Whatever you do you’ll only catch certain parts of the whole show, but you’ll come together with the rest of the audience for the final sequence.
6 – Unbelievable Set
The details in each room are phenomenal, from real hair samples and handwritten letters to vintage furniture and chilled air in the “forest.” Beyond the hotel lobby you’ll encounter eerie bedrooms, offices, ruins, a hospital, a graveyard, a church and a banquet hall—all given precise and thorough rendering. As they say, the devil is in the details. Some of the other things you’ll see? Bird carcasses, headless baby dolls, a bloody bathtub, teary actors and fight scenes—things can get a little intense, if not downright terrifying, during the show. Even encountering a fellow visitor unexpectedly around the corner can make you jump.
7 – Pre-theatre Fun
The McKittrick Hotel isn’t just a theatre space. Gallow Green, its summer rooftop bar, is a must-visit before (or after) the show. The twinkly atmosphere, first-rate signature cocktails, and flavorful appetizers perfect for sharing elevate Sleep No More from a night of theatre to a night out on the town. In the winter, the space transforms into the Lodge at Gallow Green, a ski lodge built on the site with seasonal cocktails.