Sleep No More – observations

My mum and I enjoyed Sleep No More immensely. I will be unpacking the complexity of it for some time. The dancers/actors were excellent – especially Tori Sparks as Lady Macbeth. Goosebumps! But they were all superb. The slow-motion banquet stops time itself.

Key features:

    urgency – the risk of missing the action
    embodiment and ambiguity
    restructuring the hierarchy of sensory channels
    hidden affordances – the need to seek out locations and hidden places
    the possibility of unexpected interaction with unknown consequences (but presumed safe)
    seeming randomness – strong, but not superficially obvious, narrative structure, rich in layered metaphors
    dynamic changes of scale, reflecting the narrative structure – narrow, twisting corridors opening into big rooms, boxes and small spaces within rooms
    the tacit “mirror” choreography of the movement of the audience – designed to be intuited, not directly perceived

Ambiguity/the partially revealed:

    darkness makes it more challenging for vision to remain the controlling sense; opening avenues for other sensory channels (auditory, haptic)
    disorientating, placing emphasis on imbalance, risk of falling
    creating an atmosphere of impending danger and/or mystery
    masks limiting the visual field, making hearing more important as a way to perceive fast approaching actors and audience memberslight and occluding edges, using extreme chiaroscuro to create ambiguityshifting boundaries between performance spaces (as they become so) and audience spaces – the need to be constantly aware

Embodiment:

    proprioception being pushed to the fore by a disorientating and unbalancing environment
    proximity of other bodies – both actors and other audience members – often fast moving
    the intense physicality of the actors/dancers
    rich surround (recorded) sound, reverberating through your body
    the sound of gravity and effort – the actors/dancers, the audience members, moving (often with great urgency) close up
    the real risk of impact if you get the shifting boundaries between performance space and audience space wrong

And, of course, meticulous attention to micro- and macroperspective detail and sensual depth, created by layer upon layer of material-as-metaphor. Finished off by draping all that rich detail in sensory ambiguity.

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