We’ve all been there. Forced to read (or at least SparkNotes) a Shakespearean play. Maybe watch the movie or go on a class field trip to see one of the plays performed live. Perhaps you enjoyed it or maybe you preferred to indulge in a contemporary retelling like pop culture favorite 10 Things I Hate About You with Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger (RIP) and cutie pie Joseph Gordon Levitt. No matter what, we’ve all had some exposure to Shakespeare throughout our lives. With graduation, I thought I was done, much preferring to spend my subway commute reading Kindle books in the historical fiction or home improvement genres. But, after reading an article in the New York Times, I think I may be ready to revisit the old Bard.
At the McKittrick Hotel in Chelsea, theater company Punchdrunk is retelling the tale of Macbeth, under the title Sleep No More. But they’re not just new actors performing an old play; two things make their rendition unusual. First, the play is largely performed wordless because there’s a lot of dancing. BUT what made me really want to check it out is that the performance progresses like a “Choose Your Own Adventure” book come to life; audience members don a mask and are then given the freedom of choosing which character to follow throughout the course of the play. Talk about audience engagement! How amazing it must be to be standing near the performers as the scene develops; smelling the sweat and perhaps even feeling their breath. It sounds voyeuristic in a way that completely intrigues me. I have a friend who spent FOUR hours wondering around, completely fascinated by the play’s development.
I’m curious about the adaptability of this idea to other, lesser known plays. I don’t know about you, but I had to read MacBeth in high school (thanks, No Fear Shakespeare), watch the movie and then see it performed as well. So, I would be going into the performance already well informed of what the actors (dancers?) should be saying even when they’re mute. Although I have preconceptions about the play, I am intrigued to the point that I’m considering buying a ticket. It’s just a matter of what will nourish me more: art or food? What about you? Want to make plans to see that Scottish play this weekend? You can buy tickets here… and let me know if I’ll see you there.