I was browsing the net, looking for something “alternative” to do in New York on my free Sunday, thinking I should really start to use my time to get under the skin of some more interesting things in the city, away from the obvious tourist trail. I stumbled across an event called The Accomplice, and the idea of “interactive theatre”. It didn’t give much away on the website, but something about it captured my imagination. So I signed up.The day before the event, I received a call on my phone. I had just walked out of my hotel and was heading south on Lexington. The strong New York accent on the end of the line told me I had to meet him at the corner of Houston and Pearl, near Seaport, by the playground. I was to write it down and then burn the message. There I would await further instructions. What followed, I am not technically allowed to say, in fact I should really destroy this blog post, however, I think I may be allowed to divulge that it was approximately 3-4 hours of hillarious, strange, intriguing and fun exploration of the finanical district and china town meeting some crazy characters along the way, piecing together clues and watching the story unravell. It was brilliant! I was in a group of around 10 people and we bonded pretty quickly over a beer in a nearby bar (our first clue led us there), we were then walking all over the place unravelling the mystery and following the strange plot. We had to approach complete strangers, identify those who were part of the mystery, pick up a live frog and deliver it to a drop spot. We ended up in a basement bar for the finale, which was fabulous. It was just like The Game, but without the blood.
Highly, HIGHLY recommended.
One of the best parts of an experience like this is chatting to your fellow experiencees afterwards and piecing together just what had happened!
So, reeling from the fabulousness of that experience, and chatting to a colleague in the NY office, I was then told about something else, which was possibly even better! Sleep No More.
I had never heard of this before, but the two days between being recommended and going along, I heard small snippets of information – not enough to give me the full story (as noone wanted to spoil it for me)- but enough to start to become slightly terrified about the experience. The idea is that this is completely immersive theatre. But a bizarre, creepy theatre.So we went along on Wednesday night and were admitted to the ‘long-time abandoned’ McKittrick Hotel – the setting for the night. You “check in” and are given a card, which then determines when you can be allowed into the rooms. You walk down really dark coridoors into a 1930′s style velvet bar, smoky with a band and absinthe shots and champagne cocktails served. The actors in the bar are setting the scene. Creepy, already. Then you are called to enter the depths of the hotel.
The rest is up to you, and again, I don’t want to give too much away, only to say that the scenes are acted out throughout the hotel and you are truely part of the experience. It’s entirely up to you where you go and what you see, and, as they tell you in the lift on your way up to the rooms, “fortune favours the brave”, you are meant to explore, be nosey, get up close, do your own thing, and enjoy. You wear a mask to identify yourself as audience and allow you to drop your usual inhibitions.
It was utterly amazing. Like nothing I have ever experienced. It was dream-like and although I was apprehensive I found that I let go of all my fears and became inquisitive like a child again. I was happy to be immediately separated from the person I went with and went on a unique 2 hour journey. An adventurer in a 5 storey hotel, each room a mystery, each coridoor leading to another scene. Padded cells, graveyards, bars, surgeries, living rooms, washrooms, offices, ballroom, boudoirs… following actors around the huge spaces as I chose, witnessing murder, orgies, love affairs, fights… and the grand finale, shocking.
At the end I was somehow led, almost as if by an invisible force, back to the smoky bar where I found my friend and we stared at each other wide-eyed and with grins on our faces. What just happened?! That was…. amazing!
We had to leave the McKittrick. We had to get back to the East Side, find a bar, drink some beer, and reflect!
I’m addicted. Interactive, immersive, exploratory theatre. LOVE it. It spun me around, shocked me, touched me, scared me. Invigorating for the senses and baffles the mind. Go, just go. You’ll either love it, or hate it, but you won’t forget it!
So, back in the UK and I’m hungry for more. I’ve been told I have to go to Fuerzabruta next, so have just bought tickets as it’s back in the UK for 6 weeks only this December/January – perfect timing!