Dave Itzkoff’s review of “Sleep No More,” a site-specific theatre installation in a Chelsea (NY) demonstrates what happens when the threshold between videogames, alternate-reality games, theatre and drama are blurred. Created by British theatre group Punchdrunk, and produced with the help of Emursive and MIT the installation combines technology, performance and alternate-branching storylines. As Itzkoff notes,
“Sleep No More” lets masked attendees follow, with eyes, ears, hands and feet, an open-ended tale that mashes up “Macbeth” with elements of Hitchcock films like “Rebecca” and “Vertigo.”
At the invitation of Punchdrunk, I was taking part in an experiment to see, primarily, if this immersive experience could be technologically tweaked to yield a new narrative-within-the-master-narrative for select participants. (I imagine that the secondary, unstated goal of this field trial was to test my exceedingly minimal threshold for discomfort.)
By adding state-of-the-art gadgetry (including 8,000 more feet of cable and another 100 or so strategically placed Bluetooth and RFID sensors) to some already nontraditional storytelling, Punchdrunk’s ambition was to deliver something like a living video game. But for now, this emerging art form is still in its rudimentary, Atari 2600 phase.
Much of Itzkoff’s review goes back and forth between the struggles and successes of “Sleep No More.” Often focusing on the tightness of the mask and the surprising pleasantness of disorientation. Despite possible shortcomings its great to see new approaches to theatre in an age of increased interactivity. More projects like “Sleep No More” should be welcomed in their exploration into the realms of videogames, interacitvity, play and digital technologies.