Sleep No More isn't quite theater, but it's certainly a spectacle. Situated in a series of overhauled warehouses on Manhattan's far west side, the overwhelming experience--put on by British theater company Punchdrunk and based on Macbeth--sprawls across a set known as the McKittrick Hotel, which encompasses shops, forests, a dining room, a ballroom, secret passageways, and hundreds of other nooks and crannies. Participants follow actors around the cavernous space, viewing everything from formal dances to in-the-buff shower shows--all the time wearing masks and losing themselves to the space.
The set, by Beatrice Minns and Livi Vaughan, Punchdrunk's longtime, London-based design associates, is nothing if not impressive. Each room is packed with furniture and props culled from antique fairs, swap meets, junk stores, and trash bins that transform the space into a series of thrilling, creepy environments that make the streets of New York seem worlds away.
Curious about how the especially creepy Hecate's Apothecary room, we asked Minns and Vaughan to unravel the secrets of what went into creating their strong and vivid design.
(1) Drawings on Walls: "Hecate is the head witch and this is her private room, where she creates her potions. Witches believe talisman hold supernatural powers."
(2) Bird Cage: "She's a haruspex, which is someone who inspects the entrails of sacrificed animals. So a lot of this has to do with inspecting the entrails of birds. These are where the animals would have been kept."
(3) Dried Flowers: "They're part of her stock for making potions, as if this was a real, working room. Some have specific meanings: Parsley can only be grown by the devil's hand, so we have that in there. Some of it is laurel, which is another favorite for witches."
(4) Dress Form: "The dress form is for a type of voodoo. It's a large version of one of those dolls you would put pins and nails in. We found it with moss grown over it and we liked the idea of time passing and vegetation taking over."
(5) Combs on Desk: "On the desk, you can see combs with human hair in them, which the witches would use in magic spells against a person. We looked for combs as eclectic as possible, so it would look like she had taken them from people's homes. The hair came from us, mainly. We sent people out to collect hair from different hairdressers."
(6) The Ropes: "The ropes on the ceiling are made into pentagrams, the witches' symbol. The way that we put that up creates an image that tells you more about the character."