(Please take this with the obvious caveat - it’s just my opinion and not intended to denigrate anyone else’s.)
I think that Sleep No More is experiencing a renaissance right now.
They’ve currently got the two best Macbeths ever, Nick Bruder and Paul Zivkovich. Both are very different in interpretation, but equally riveting. Nick’s unhinged, violent Macbeth is terrifying, his energy so dark and wild that he’s both brilliant and difficult to watch, whereas Paul’s Macbeth is heartbreaking, as he transforms from a good man with a tragic flaw into a monster, increasingly out of control as he lets the darkest aspects of his own nature take over.
My favorite moments with Paul’s Macbeth: the walled garden solo, with its hauntingly beautiful choreography and setting; Witches 1, as he keeps trying to walk away yet is seduced despite himself; his rage after the rave - he seems possessed as he slams his head against the wall and… he doesn’t storm over to the speakeasy to kill Banquo, it’s more like he’s dragged there by evil forces that he’s complicit in allowing to direct him; and his reset in the forest, the eerie, haunting lights filtering through the trees, the headstand that seems so dangerous as he reaches to the audience to take his hands…
Nick and Paul are paired with two of the best ever Lady Macbeths - Troy Ogilvie’s Lady M is as unhinged and scary as Nick’s Macbeth, and Anna Finkel is stunningly powerful as the tiny, bleach-blonde femme fatale who absolutely dominates Paul’s Macbeth. The chemistry between both pairings is awesome.
It goes without saying that they’re all extraordinary dancers who bring the choreography to vivid life, but they also carry the quieter moments, the acting that convinces you that you really ARE watching a bloodthirsty wannabe king and queen.
Jesse Kovarky is over from The Drowned Man, the best Boy Witch since Conor and Austin were in rotation. He’s got everything right - the eye contact, flirting, teasing, cruelty, the mania of the rave and the devastating sadness afterward. He breaks your heart but you never forget that he’s evil. He has *fun* and if you follow close, you’ll have fun with him. But when he falls in the shower scene, your breath will stop in your throat - it looks real and painful and the vulnerability is terrifying. I’ve seen the show like 8,000 times and I still had to step back and watch from behind someone else - the intimacy of that scene, when done well, is too much.
Leslie Kraus is playing Sexy Witch, which I haven’t seen yet and can’t wait for. I loved her Lady Macbeth, but her Wendy is the role that moved me the most. I will never forget my final glimpse of her, the very last reset at the very last Drowned Man, watching her through the gates as her huge eyes welled with tears. Sexy Witch is a completely different role, and I have confidence that she’ll bring something awesome to it.
Luke Murphy is back, I don’t know in what capacity, but I caught his Macduff recently and it was such a wonderful blast from the past. It just felt RIGHT. He IS Macduff - I have never seen any other performer come close. He didn’t fall down the stairs like he used to (which is probably for the best!), but he still climbs the walls like gravity doesn’t exist.
Conor Doyle is back, I haven’t seen him perform, and I am this close to offering a bribe if someone can slip me some inside info as to when he’ll be on. :P I still think he’s the best Punchdrunk performer I’ve ever seen - if you’re lucky enough to catch him, follow! …and then message me the details so that I can live vicariously through you. ;)
There are new Porters, at least new to me - I haven’t seen Eric Abbott-Main or Oliver Hornsby-Sayer yet, and am looking forward to what they bring to the table. (I did catch Olly’s Macduff, but I’ll reserve judgment until he’s had more time.)
Austin Goodwin has become a reliable staple at this point, someone who is consistently good whenever you’re lucky enough to catch him. I miss his Boy Witch. I adore his Porter - his version of the 1:1 might be the best of all. His Nurse (Orderly?) was actually interesting enough that I followed for a whole loop without getting bored - his take on the solo was particularly fabulous.
Lily Ockwell is back, too - I didn’t realize how I missed her piercing Sexy Witch scream.
In the Manderley a couple weeks ago, I actually caught Maximilian and Violet, who I haven’t seen together outside of a special event in years. Violet’s introduction remains incomparable, the standard all the others reach for and never quite match. (Though Mallory Gracenin’s fabulous Evelyn comes close.)
Long story short - I might be breaking my “only one visit to Sleep No More per month” rule for a little while. :)
Actually if Ed Warner did get hired to play Boy Witch I would restart Scorched just to rattle on at length about how brilliant he is.
I would legitimately participate in a letter-writing campaign to make this happen.
Anyone want to go with me to SNM this Saturday early?
I’ve been trying to think of how to recap my experience last night at Mayfair. I don’t want to spoil anything for people if this kind of dinner is something Punchdrunk is planning to do again. It was such a rewarding surprise at every turn. But I think it would be okay to share a few highlights, especially the ones that related directly to last night’s theme.
I hadn’t attended any of the previous events at Sleep No More prior to last night. Part of that is timing, but a large part of it that I am a pretty intense introvert. One of the things I absolutely love about Sleep No More is that it is both an individual experience and a profoundly intimate one. There is an aspect of performance in the connection that is created with a character, and while that connection is real, there is a distance there as well. Large crowded parties, loud music, and a lot of strangers are definitely not something that I am comfortable with. However, I wanted to know more about this space, these artists, and what they can create with a different structure. When I was thinking of buying my ticket, I initially thought that I would just go to the show and the party, but there was a part of me that wanted to see the entire piece, start to finish. So I went all in—dinner, show, party.
About a week and a half ago, I received an email with a three page questionnaire asking a lot of questions. Some of them were easy, “What would you like your last meal to be?” and “What animal are you most afraid of?” There were others that were much more difficult. “What have you always wanted?” and “Do you believe that children should be sheltered from unhappiness?” were two of several that I spent a bit of time thinking about. I sent back my answers and wondered what would become of it.
My expectations for dinner were that it would probably take place in The Heath—it’s the restaurant space, after all. And I was hoping that I would be seated at a table with others, as I was going by myself. (While I don’t usually enjoy large crowds, I love conversation with small groups of people.) I thought there might be a performance or perhaps a special 1:1 for a few people. I imagined that the restaurant would be somewhat full, and that we would all experience dinner together, perhaps family style. I had high hopes for the food!
Day before yesterday I got an email that said to be sure and arrive by 6:00 and if we were later than 6:15, we wouldn’t be allowed in. So when I was getting ready yesterday afternoon, I was hyper-aware of the time. I’m a little nuts about being on-time anyway, so that just got ratcheted up a bit! But I made it with a few minutes to spare, so I figured I wouldn’t be the last to arrive, but would probably be somewhere comfortably in the middle of the crowd. The door man gave me a funny look and mentioned that I was early. I thought that was odd, since I was only about three minutes early! They sent me up to Gallow Green, and so I figured that perhaps we would be having dinner there. There was a complementary coat check, so I handed over my bag. This included my phone, since I had to get a bit creative with the all-white dress code and my dress didn’t have any pockets. A very nice man showed me to an empty reserved table. I’m sure this sounds all very ordinary, but it felt a little surreal.
There was no one else there in white. Not one. And it was definitely after 6:00 by this time. What in the world was going on? I wandered around Gallow Green a bit and admired the touches that have been added since I was last there. It was a little crowded, but this was clearly a “cocktails after work” crowd and perhaps there was a reception of some sort, but it wasn’t the Mayfair crowd at all. I’m sitting there, really wishing I had my phone! I’m in the middle of a good book, and I would normally have pulled it out and read while I waited. But I didn’t have it. It’s so rare that I’m in a place where I don’t have any distractions. No book, no texts, no news to read. It was just me sitting in the midst of greenery and the murmur of the conversations around me. I found myself starting to get anxious, thinking I had done something wrong. But no, this was a chance to sit and breathe and enjoy a moment and some very delicious punch that a server brought to my table in a large bowl. I drank very slowly because that punch was sneaky strong.
A few minutes later a somewhat familiar man came over and introduced himself, “Hi, I’m Conor.” My internal monologue went, “Holy crap. This is Conor Doyle!” While I hope my voice said calmly, ‘Hi, I’m Dee Anne.” I don’t actually remember, but I’m going with the assumption that I didn’t make a fool of myself. Yes, let’s go with that.
Conor sat down and we chatted for a bit about his day, The Drowned Man, and the food, I think. He was incredibly gracious and charming. After a few minutes, three other people joined us. They were a group of friends who came together, and were so sweet to me the entire evening. (Thank you for letting me hang out with you all at the party—you know who you are!)
Now I feel that this recap is turning into a novel! But I want to remember it…so on we continue. After appetizers in Gallow Green and a bit of getting-to-know-each-other chit chat, Conor led us out the back of Gallow Green behind the bar, down some stairs and into a small dining room with one table. And then it was just us for the rest of the dinner. The food was outstanding, and each of us had a completely different meal. The McKittrick had provided us with the last meal we wished for! (I had one of the best steaks I’ve ever had. Cooked rare to perfection with grilled asparagus, roasted potatoes that were covered in something very tasty, and a lush green salad. And cheesecake for dessert. Absolutely yummy. One of the girls had a burger and cheese fries from Shake Shack. The fries were popular around the table.) And all through dinner there were little surprises. Conor gave us a history of the Mayfair holiday, we played a game, he sang for us. There were small touches like cloth napkins embroidered with our names and background music that was designed by Punchdrunk’s sound designer. It was just so much fun!
At the end of the evening, Conor disappeared. Literally. He vanished in the dark, and was replaced by a familiar character who proceeded to eat with us. And then…well, it was time for the Sleep No More…
I won’t do a recap of the show, that’s been done by many with grace and art. I will say that I was grateful to be given a 1:1 with the Taxidermist. This is one of my favorites, and the actor was new to me. I think he was played by Patrick Ferreri. I’m not sure about that, because my memory for faces is absolutely horrible. And I have a really hard time looking at a picture I connecting the image to a real person. So the gallery doesn’t help me much. Does anyone know who played the Taxidermist on Mayfair? He was quite intense.
(Also, on a side note—I’m so sorry to the girl that I got in her way in the doorway. I know it was totally rude, and I’m really glad that Malcom picked her and not me!)
The party was fun, and I was so glad for the side performances that were happening as the evening went on. I am a champion at standing around really awkwardly and not knowing what to do—and so watching Paul Zivkovich as The Fool from The Drowned Man was such a treat! The other performances were terrific as well, and saved me from supporting the wall all night. It felt like as soon as I was about ready to head for home and my bed, I would find another small performance. It was a fun night. Hot, crowded, and loud—but fun. And thank you to those in the tumblr crowd who said hello!
Best thing about Mayfair: Paul Zivkovich was the Fool, more or less. He was in a similar clown outfit, behind the glass of the tailor’s shop, doing a sort of “best of” compilation of Fool choreography: putting on his makeup in the mirror, bits of the snow room dance (the “love”/heart part), the handstand when his legs don’t work. Plus some new stuff as well, talking in his sleep, playing with an umbrella. I even saw a bit of William choreography, the way William lifts himself off the ground like he’s caught in a wave, in front of Mary’s house right after the fountain scene.
It brought great joy to my heart to see Paul’s Fool again, and to bond with other members of the Paul Z fanclub who were also gathered at the tailor shop window.
Worst thing about Mayfair: Most of the night, my favorite performers were giving 1:1s, but there was no way to get them. I guess you had to be on Max’s list? Or know the right people? I don’t know. I was sad
I usually feel out of place and like I don’t really belong when I’m at the McKittrick anyway, and that feeling was amplified last night.