Yesterday the New York Times released their review of ‘Sleep No More‘ along with new production shots of the performance. While I know it’s a bit ‘meta’ to write a review, of a review, of a show I worked on (I assisted the designers). I might just have to, because I can’t help but think that thought he liked the show, Ben Brantley simply didn’t get it.
While Mr. Brantley was more than complimentary regarding the production design stating:
” The knockout set pieces (and the detail in every room is remarkable) include a painterly banquet scene and an unnerving black mass sequence led by three ambisexual witches. The lighting is ravishingly crepuscular. The mood-matching sound design includes period pop recordings (“Goodnight Children, Everywhere,” “A Nightingale Sang in Berkeley Square”), techno music (but only for the witches) and swoony, suspenseful Bernard Herrmann scores for Hitchcock movies.”
His overall take on the production was that Punchdrunk was attempting to elicit the feelings of guilty pleasure that accompany acts of voyeurism. And that was really made the piece special was the audience.
This IS partially what the production team strive for, however, the viewer’s voyeuristic pleasure, is certainly not the main goal for the production team. To me it is far more important that the audience see those moments of utter humanity within the play. The Bard is known for his use of language, but also his ability to and pull out the most raw emotions-the rage that come before murder, the tenderness of a husband trying to comfort a wife, or a guilt of a wife trying to wash away the sins of her husband. It is these emotions, that Punchdrunk is so adept at portraying.
When it comes to the set and the design, even more important than Mr. Brantley’s obvious enjoyment of the overall construction of the space are the layers that reside within this puzzle of a building. While one may find guilty enjoyment rifling through Malcolm’s files, or watching Macbeth kill the King, or seeing Lady Macbeth lose her mind and start scrubbing out the spot; The importance of those details are in the story that they create for the viewer (yes, you will learn more about the story if you read the files). As well as the emotional environment that they portray, and the total emersion of the audience into the world of the Scottish King.
Mr. Brantley is one of the most influential theater reviewers in the media-sphere, however, his limited descriptions of what is arguably one of the most layered productions on the boards, bothered me as both an artist and a viewer, hopefully other viewers and reviewers will not come away with such a limited take.