Follow TV Tropes


Theatre / Sleep No More

Go To
"It will have blood, they say; blood will have blood..."

"Welcome to the McKittrick Hotel. These are your masks for the evening."

You walk down a dimly-lit hall. Approaching a check-in desk, you receive an odd-looking room key. As instructed, you proceed up the nearby stairs and struggle to find your way through a small but barely-illuminated maze. Seeing a warm glow up ahead, and hearing the faint strains of jazz, you emerge onto a landing to find yourself transported back in time. Welcome to Scotland, 1939; the luxurious McKittrick Hotel in the town of Gallow Green. Through a red velvet curtain lies the hotel's Manderley Bar, where (after a few drinks) your ticket number is called, you are given a white, beaked Venetian mask, and told to remain silent. Stepping off a large freight elevator, you are then free to explore the five floors of the hotel as you please, witnessing silent scenes of murder, lust, suspense, and magic happen all around you. Fortune favors the bold. And watch your step...


This is not any film summary, or the plot of any video game. This is Sleep No More, a work of immersive theater created by British theater group Punchdrunk, first in 2003 in London and 2009 in Boston. Since 2011 it has been housed at the (semi-fictional) McKittrick Hotel, in lower Manhattan. Ostensibly, it tells the story of Macbeth, along with a couple other stories inspired by the hotel setting and especially the noir films of Alfred Hitchcock, through dance and movement and mostly devoid of words. Inside, guests may spend three hours wandering to their heart's content, be it following characters, or exploring and picking apart the lushly detailed and intricate sets (and the stories and secrets they hold), often a combination of the two.

In December 2016, the McKinnon Hotel opened in Shanghai, bringing Punchdrunk and Sleep No More to Asia for the first time.


Your stay at the McKittrick may provide examples of:

  • All There in the Manual: The souvenir program for the show goes into a bit more detail on many of the interweaving stories and themes, albeit still rather obliquely. It features such clues as a character map, providing the names of the characters and their relationships to each other; a brief synopsis of some of the Macbeth scenes; and a recounting of the story of a ship's fatal voyage which is told in various ways throughout the hotel.
  • Artistic License – Ornithology: Inverted. Birds being one of the chief motifs of Macbeth in the first place, in a show as detail-oriented as this expect them to have done their research and shown their work. Malcolm's detective agency Mac Crinain & Reid, in particular, has dozens of pages ripped from what look like scientific papers on the flight patterns of birds. This makes more sense if you stick around him and learn that Malcolm's detective techniques involve augury.
  • The Blank: The audience become this as they wear the masks.
  • City Noir: Gallow Green, natch. Everything is steeped in shadows and dim light, and the air carries a sense of foreboding everywhere you turn. Especially when you're alone, and anonymous.
  • The City Narrows: Hecate's replica bar could be considered this to Gallow Green's Wretched Hive, especially seeing as many audience members and characters literally stumble into it, not realizing it was there.
  • Cow Tools: Again, for the most part, inverted. With a show this large and props this mobile, most have some meaning or connections to the characters. This goes as far as which books certain characters keep on their shelves.
  • Creepy Cemetery: Aspects of the Hotel's third floor can certainly be this, be it the actual cemetery (nearly pitch-black save for votives buried in the ground, walking on wooden planks over sand) or the nearby statue garden outside the Macbeth residence (again very dark, with many alcoves containing statues of Virgin Mary-esque figures).
  • Creepy Mortician: The audience never actually comes across the proprietor of the funeral home on Gallow Green's High Street, one W.B. Robertson, but looking around inside his shop (which the tailor, Fulton, does frequent), one can see that he must have a somewhat macabre sense of humor.
  • Emerging from the Shadows: Almost every character, at one point or another.
  • Empty Room Psych: The padded cell in the King James Sanitarium is, for the moment, unoccupied. This does not stop audience members from looking in every corner for something hidden there. Also combines with good ole' MacGuffin for Hecate's "find my ring" one-on-one; said ring is no longer actually part of the show, but keeping the interaction in means visitors often spend the whole show searching for it in vain.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": Quite literally, as it turns out, with several characters among the fanbase. The Speakeasy Bartender is named as such in the program; fans mostly call him just "Speakeasy" or "Speaks" for short. Same goes for the Gallow Green taxidermist, named Mr. Bargarran in the program and on his shop signage, but mostly just called "Taxi", and Matron Long in the Sanatarium, who is usually referred to as just "Matron". (Somewhat inverted with the names used for the witches, "Bald", "Sexy", and "Boy" Witch, which sound like fan-created names but were in fact the names given in the first official playbill for the show.)
  • Hell Hotel: Pretty obvious, as it's the name of the Chelsea location (a Vertigo reference) as well as of the in-universe lodging of many of the inhabitants of Gallow Green, in Glamis.
  • The Hedge of Thorns: The mobile Birnam Wood, being individual trees pushed around on dollies, could be considered one, but it's dwarfed in this respect by the much larger and imposing forest outside of the King James Sanitarium on the fifth floor.
  • I Own This Town: Hecate.
  • The Maze: A candlelit, maze-like hallway guides you into the Manderley Bar as your journey begins, and of course the large bramble of trees leading to the hut outside the King James Sanitarium counts as well.
  • No-Holds-Barred Beatdown: This most definitely applies to Macbeth's chosen method of offing Banquo. Bash his head in with a brick after a vigorous fight in one of the hotel's largest rooms that also includes shoving across walls, massive high jumps, and slamming full-force onto a pool table.
  • Scenery Porn and Costume Porn: Everything is movable and touchable, so try everything. The dress and decor are also perfectly suited to the late 1930s. Lady Macbeth's sequined ball gown and Lady in Red Hecate's blood-red feather train are particular standouts.
  • Silence Is Golden: True to Hitchcock's preference, neither the characters nor audience speak. (Except for one-on-ones, in which most characters who have them do speak to whichever audience member they've singled out.)
  • Solitary Sorceress: Matron Long, isolated in her hut on the outskirts of the Sanatarium forest, definitely fits this in a more "seer-y" way. In terms of actual sorcery, though, this is Hecate to a T. Only seen in one area? Check. Surrounded by familiars and servants when not alone? Check. Aid given to others, at a terrible price, for her own gains? Check, check, check. In supplementary events and with retired characters formerly in the show, the fate of Agnes Naismith's sister Grace is revealed: she and Hecate made a bet with their lives, with the winner choosing how the loser dies. Grace lost. Hecate started by dismembering her hands.
  • Taxidermy Is Creepy: Following Mr. Bargarran around reveals that he may not be evil, but he certainly is somehow in league with Hecate and her supernatural realm, either for his own gain or as some form of atonement.

♫ That certain night, the night we met, there was magic abroad in the air...
There were angels dining at the Ritz, and a nightingale sang in Berkeley Square...

How well does it match the trope?

Example of:


Media sources: