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. It makes sense the production from Punchdrunk theatre company nestles between the Chelsea art galleries—as the experience feels more like performance art than traditional theatre storytelling. Sleep No More, an immersive, site-specific telling of Shakespeare’s Macbeth, creates an atmosphere that speaks to the tale of the Scottish king and his scheming, power-hungry wife rather than a linear plot.
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.
1. Buying tickets
Entry to Sleep No More is staggered and you buy tickets for a time slot. For an 8PM performance, the first tickets available are at 7PM and blocks are available for 15-minute intervals. The earlier you choose, the more time you have to hang out in the Manderlay Bar and acclimate to the Sleep No More atmosphere, but the show doesn’t technically begin in that space, so you’re just as well choosing a later time like 7:45PM. Check the website for full ticketing details.
2. 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. There’s also the pop-up Club Car restaurant, open through September 30, and the Manderlay Bar for pre- and post-show enjoyment.
3. Wear comfortable shoes.
Punchdrunk staged Sleep No More throughout the McKittrick Hotel. There is no stage; you don’t take your seats. Every room in the multi-floor “playspace” is the “set,” and decorated to create the world of Macbeth in the hotel. Whether exploring the space on your own, or chasing actors to witness the action, audiences climb a lot of stairs and may even jog to follow performers.
4. Leave your glasses at home if you can.
Emblematic of Sleep No More, every audience member must wear a white mask (distributed upon entry) for the duration of the performance. This distinguishes audience members from performers with no masks and McKittrick staff in black masks. If you wear glasses, put your contact lenses in before going to the show.
5. You are required to check your belongings.
Sleep No More does not permit any bags or coats inside the space. The coat check is $4 per item and you must check all items. It’s a very safe and organized system, but if there are items you feel uncomfortable leaving out of your sight, leave them at home.
6. This is an individual experience.
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; there’s no talking inside and you’ll have more to discuss after the show if you see different things!
7. 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.
8. Immersive also means interactive.
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.
BONUS: Prepare for a one-of-a-kind experience.
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.