Sleep No More – Monday 2nd January, 7pm

My memories of the McKittrick are like a wonderful dream, so I’ve tried to write about them in such a way. I’ve kept details, particularly of 1:1s, quite vague, so as to avoid spoilers, and also to prevent me from clouding any experience you might have had with the details of mine. And forgive me if I’ve mis-remembered anything. Details of dreams are often hazy, and we do live inside a dream.

 

I had no intention of being in the McKittrick on Monday. I’d planned a night off. But after losing a loop on Saturday at the NYE show, and with only one show remaining, I was getting antsy. How was I going to do everything I still had to do in just 3 loops? I needed to spend more time with the Taxidermist, Fulton, and Speakeasy, I still had to do an Agnes loop, the Macduffs, and I had a vague plan to spend some time with Macbeth, and I couldn’t leave without spending some time with the Porter. It just wasn’t possible.

Over dinner at Momofuku (if you’re in NYC, you MUST go – have the Momofuku Ramen, and the truffles, and buy more truffles to take away) on Sunday, Gareth mentioned he might try to get a ticket for the Monday. It was sold out, but sometimes if you call during the day they have Max’s list tickets. They’re expensive, but it might be worth it. I couldn’t bring myself to spend quite that much on a standard show.

Fast forward twelve hours, and I’d decided I was up for it after all, and Gareth and I were co-ordinating our efforts – emails, calls, incessantly checking the website. But nothing. Standby was our only option.

By 5.50pm, we were at the McKittrick, making sure Gus and Mike on the door knew we were looking for tickets, and ensuring we were first on the standby list. By the time they started letting people in at 6.45pm, there were about 10 people on standby, and we’d all been told to go to the bar and come back at 8pm, once everyone had been let in. Gareth was ready to go, deciding we weren’t paying full price for the two loops we’d see if we got in at 8pm, but if Punchdrunk has taught me anything, it’s to follow my instincts, and my instincts told me to stay.

Within 5 minutes, Mike was having a quiet word with a colleague wearing a dapper shirt and carrying a radio, and gesturing at us. Dapper-shirt-radio-man said if we joined the back of the queue, and gave a code name when we got inside, there would be two tickets waiting for us to purchase. SUCCESS!! But fortune favours the bold, so I asked (nicely!!) if we could go straight in seeing as we’d been first in the queue, and were very cold and wet, and again, he said yes. We found out Dapper-shirt-radio-man’s name was Dom, thanked him profusely, and raced inside.

(I will confess we snuck in the first lift, despite getting a 2 and a 3 card. Would you believe me if I said we forgot we didn’t have aces?!)

So, on to the show! Firstly, I noted that Doug Burkhardt was manning the lift, which was excellent news for me – this meant that sometime later he would emerge as the Taxidermist and I could finish what I started on Saturday.

Feeling incredibly lucky and still buzzing from our standby success, I headed off to find Agnes (Taylor Drury), with a quick detour to check in on Fulton. I’ve followed Agnes before, but often struggled with the huge crowds that gather, but this was my night. I found her in her bedroom, and dutifully followed. Within a few minutes, she was heading in for a 1:1. Having only joined her recently I had no expectations, but she took one look at the couple holding hands next to me, and grabbed me instead. I really loved her 1:1 – the location, the lighting as she stood in the doorway, the words from Rebecca. And the way it ended and I emerged slightly disorientated with a locket around my neck.

Knowing she wouldn’t come out for a couple of minutes, I quickly checked in with Fulton again, and also Speakeasy and Hecate, before returning to Agnes – but I timed it wrong, and returned just as she went in for another 1:1. I was near the front of the group again, and stood aside to let someone else through. Again, I was next to a handholding couple, and couldn’t stop myself giggling when they looked at her hopefully and both held their hands out to her, and she reached over their shoulders to invite another white mask in. Not that I have an issue with public displays of affection, but it goes against Punchdrunk’s advice of going it alone, and in a building full of tight spaces and narrow corridors where it’s easy to lose characters if you hesitate, handholders are irritating, inconsiderate, and sometimes even dangerous as they can cause pile ups.  I followed Agnes’ loop through her scenes with Fulton, the Porter, Speakeasy and Hecate, finally parting ways after Hecate had harvested her tears.

My other big plan for the evening was the Taxidermist, but as he wouldn’t arrive til some way through the second loop, it was time to wander, and to tie up some loose ends. I popped up onto the 5th floor in the hope of running into Nurse Shaw, but no such luck. As I passed the Matron’s hut, the area was completely empty, and I saw Ginger Kearns peer out and lock eyes with me, but I kept moving in case she invited me back in and saw rhe same face she’d seen a couple of nights before. I popped down to see my favourite character, the Porter, this time played by Nick Bruder. Having seen his scene with Agnes, it was clear he was a different breed of Porter – less of a victim, more sinister perhaps, but while I was intrigued (and had I more shows left, I would have stayed a while), I knew he wasn’t “my” Porter. So I headed back up to the town, and spent the first part of the second loop with Fulton (Steven Apicello), finally filling in the blanks in his loop. Sometime during my time with Fulton, I must have gotten confused about timings again, and I kept popping in to see Taxi, but he was never there. Once Fulton got to a part of the loop I knew particularly well, I started wandering the street, and was quite content just watching the world go by, noting the occasional character passing through and just drinking in the atmosphere, appreciating the complexity of the interweaving stories as characters moved around me. The street really feels alive sometimes.

And then finally, there he was. I’ve followed Taxi a couple of times before, and always really enjoyed observing the different takes on him – sinister, lonely, sad. A side note, I know Sam Booth’s been playing Taxi in Shanghai, and I would LOVE to see what he does with the part. But this night, after a partial loop with Doug’s Taxi on NYE, I felt like I finally started to get him. He was somehow more open to his followers, his eyes expressive. Before long, I was being led into his 1:1 room – a room I’ve only been in a couple of times, when following a certain messy Boy Witch. This is one of the 1:1s I’ve enjoyed the most – the way he leaves you along for just a moment and plays with your senses creates by obscuring the background noise, the changes in lighting – it creates such suspense and anticipation, maybe a touch of fear. It also features some of my favourite words from Macbeth. I made my choice, and was left with an unexpected souvenir!

So on the off chance Doug ever googles his name, finds and reads this (he won’t), I apologise for my sticky hand when you led me to the rave – it was from picking a broken bit of needle from my mouth so I didn’t swallow it!

In the rave, he held my shoulders, gripping tighter and tighter as Hecate summoned her forces. As she exhaled and he let go, I was too slow in turning to follow him, but having seen that bit of his loop before, I decided to stay and watch, as he’d intended me to, before returning to join him a few minutes later to complete his loop. As the show came towards its end, we were with Taxi in his back office. I’d somehow not really noticed before that Taxi’s back office is so close to both the Boy and Bald Witches’ post-rave clean ups end of the show, and there was something thrilling about these characters all being so close together, but worlds apart.

One by one, the Witches left, along with all of their followers – and some of Taxi’s followers who clearly needed to know what they were all rushing off to. But I was really enjoying my last moments with this introverted, curious character. He took me by the hand and led me to the finale, hurrying down the stairs with a sense of sadness and inevitability, as well as genuine concern when my shoulder had a run in with a wall. He walked me through the crowd to a spot at the front before he pressed the crowds backwards and headed off to the side, and I took in the last moments of the banquet. I was enthralled by Hope Davis’ Lady Macbeth for the short time I saw her, I’d not seen Tim Heck before, but seemed he would be a strong Macbeth too.

For a show that I very nearly didn’t see, it was wonderful. I tied up all my loose ends with Fulton, Speakeasy, Agnes and Taxi, and left on the biggest high – fuelled by a few glasses of prosecco served by the delightful Birdie. We thanked them all on the night, but I really can’t thank the staff at the McKittrick enough for their help in making Gareth’s and my dreams of Manderley come true that night. Dom, Gus, Mike, Birdie – you really know how to look after your guests.

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