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08 February 2010 @ 01:50 am
Methought I heard a voice cry "Sleep no more!"  
Yesterday was one of the oddest days I've had in a while.

It started out all right -- went to work bright and early at 9:00am and was the only cashier since a lot of people had been there late the previous night doing inventory. So I'm going along, checking customers out, when all of a sudden I start to feel a little dizzy. This has happened once or twice, I figured it was just because I was tired. But it wasn't. I made it to the end of the transaction whereupon my vision started going, so I waved the line over the register over to the cafe and promptly slid onto the floor.

I'm not entirely clear on the sequence of events here, but someone brought me orange juice and that seemed to get me well enough that I could make it to not in the middle of the store, but about half way there I started to go again. But then, it turned out that the fire department was there! They were just inspecting the building, but it worked out for me because they had oxygen with them, so I had that which helped quite a lot, but they took a look at me and decided I should probably go to the hospital. My blood pressure was apparently alarmingly low (I remember hearing a 50?) and I turned yellow. Yellow like a bruise.

So lucky me, I got to take a ride in an ambulance. This was actually rather embarrassing, because by the time they arrived I was mostly back to myself but the firemen were very adamant that I should get checked out. This may actually have been my favourite part, though, because I had a lovely Irish paramedic who kept calling me love and, most importantly was rather reassuring about the fact that they went all the way out to get me despite the fact that I was basically ok.

I spent a couple of hours in the hospital. Between the hospital, the firemen, and the ambulance, my blood pressure was taken about 7 times. I also had an EKG which felt like being experimented on what with all those points hooked up. After that it became pretty boring. They brought me a surprisingly decent lunch and my mother came to pick me up, which actually turned into waiting for a long time while they ran some tests.

They said everything was just fine, though, and sent me home. So that was the end of part one. I sat around for a while and took a nap, but I actually had really bad timing as far as days to almost pass out because I also had a ticket to a show. Because I have my priorities (probably not the right ones, mind you), I decided that I was ungroggy enough to go. I feel kind of bad about that in retrospect because, although I did not realize it at the time, my mother actually did a good bit of cooking and, to be honest, a quiet night at home would have been both very nice and probably better for me. That said, I am so glad I didn't miss the show.

It was a production by a British company called Punchdrunk at the American Repertory Theater called Sleep No More, although you'd be more likely to recognize its usual name, Macbeth. This was unlike any production of the Scottish play you've ever seen before, though. It was in an old school, and I don't mean it was set in a school. I mean the show took up an entire school building.

You go through the door to be met by a stage light focused directly into your eyes, effectively blinding you. You turn the corner and are plunged into darkness, but with the afterglow of that light. As it fades, you see a candle and so walk towards it. Around the corner is a faint glow, so you go towards that, another candle. The candles lead you down a twisting corridor until you go through a set of heavy velvet curtain into -- a bar. A large, dimly lit room with red velvet walls, which contains a bar staffed by two bartenders who look like they walked out of the 1930s and a set up for a band on a small stage at the far end. As you enter, you're handed a card (mine, a 2 of hearts) and told to listen for that number.

Finally, my number was called. I went through another curtain with the group of '2's, led by a man named Charlie wearing a bowler. He handed us all masks that suddenly turned the evening of theatre into an episode of the Twilight Zone. They were white, skull like, and instead of a normal tapering to the mouth and chin, they jutted out into a sort of beak. We were led into an elevator with another actor who informed us of the rules: Masks on at all times and absolutely no talking. Then he dropped us off, a few on each floor.

So off we went, a crowd of people with bird skulls perched atop their necks. I walked into a room, a whole series of rooms. It was like walking into these people's bedrooms, straight out of the thirties. There were religious shrines where trophy cases used to be, a room with a sofa, a table lamp, and piles of old books on the end table. A large bedroom contained a giant bed, a mirror, paintings on the wall. I may as well have been wandering into a bedchamber in Glamis castle. It was that realistic. Another room contained the side of a dune -- it was completely filled with sand sloping down towards the door, right in front of which was a huge branch. Tens, maybe hundreds of bird feathers had been stuck upright into the sand, which spilled over into the adjoining room.

Eventually I stumbled onto a scene -- the famed 'Out, out, damned spot.' It a large, dimly lit (as were most, actually) room filled with bathtubs. There was light on only this one tub where a woman stood. She was being undressed by this creepy looking nurse who had her hair all slicked back. (In retrospect, I think this might have been one of the witches.) When she was completely nude, she stepped into the tub . . . and her nerve seemed to break. Suddenly her hands were covered in blood and then the water was bloody, too, and she couldn’t get it off. She started writhing in the tub, almost panicking. Finally she leapt out of the tub, stood back, put on her robe, and left. End of scene.

So off I went, too, wandering the halls. I encountered a garden with gravel paths framing neat squares of small trees. In the midst of the room stood a small statue of the Virgin on a pedestal. I kept going. I can’t even recall the things I saw. They were too many, and so details and sometimes creepy that one crowded out another. A display case filled with shoes, and some of the shoes filled with dirt. Tables of books, papers will biblical passages.

Finally, I entered a sitting room, or rather I should say a lobby, with a grouping of couches and chairs, tables, a tea service. I went through the door into a hotel lobby. If I didn’t know any better, I would have sworn I was in an actual motel. A woman stood there in a floral dress with a brown shrug on, suitcase in hand. The porter at the desk said something about two crows into the phone, hung up, and went to take her suitcase. I can’t explain this scene. I still don’t know who the woman was or why she was at the hotel. In an elaborately choreographed, completely silent scene, she checked into the hotel, and then went out into the lobby to prepare some tea. But something happened, something seemed to frighten her. We followed her out, and into another room which led into what I guess was a small dressing chamber. The walls were covered with dresses, simply covered. Hanging from an upright screen was a fancy robe which she put on and then turned to admire herself in the mirror when suddenly a man started knocking desperately at the outer door. Quickly she took off the robe. The man burst into the room, They seemed to argue, as again (in the rest of the show as well) there was no actual dialogue. He departed again, leaving her alone. She rifled through the drawer in her vanity, and drew a spectator into the room, and closed the door, leaving us all behind. So off I went again.

I can’t remember the exact sequence of events after this, so I’ll give what I can remember.
I wound up in what used to be the auditorium. A man walked down a beam of light blue light, spattered with blood.

In that same room, later on, I walked into a party. The room was gaily lit, and couples danced in a circle surrounded by masked spectators. One woman was pregnant – I believe she was Lady Macduff. Her partner was led away, so she watched, danced a little by herself as the other couples continued their choreography. Up above this scene was another room with a window that looked onto the main hall – I assume it used to be the booth. Macbeth stood there amid the audience members, looking down darkly on us all. A maid with the same slicked back hair as the one attending Lady Macbeth came up to the pregnant woman and offered her a drink, which she took. Soon she started to feel ill. It became clear, though I couldn’t say how, that what she had taken was poison, and the maid led her off as the dance continued.

Soon the other couples left as well, leaving only two people. A man, Banquo perhaps, danced with a woman in a long velvet gown, a woman who was not his Lady. Their dance turned violent, turned into a fight. She pulled off her hair and was bald underneath – Hecate? He fled, but she followed him out into the hall, as did we all. They continued on through the hallways, flinging each other against the walls, down the stairs.

Then I was in a hallway. Macbeth had a card in hand – a king. He considered it, wanted it, but dropped it through the slot in a locker, slid to the floor. The locker slowly opened and a hand reached out, offering the king. We followed down the hall as a blond man struggled with the bald woman. We were ushered – shoved rather, by a thin blond man we had been following, into a room filled with small tables like a cabaret with metal serving trays to one side like a cafeteria. That wall was covered by a red velvet curtain. We gathered in a circle. A web of rope was taught across the ceiling. A statuesque woman in a long, elegant dress stood utterly still, gazing upward, as we assembled.

This turned into the most bizarre scene of the evening, even becoming frightening. Three women who were clearly the witches assembled as the elegant woman in the red dress watched. They began violently cavorting. A strobe light went on, but with long delays between each flash of light. The blond man was stripped naked and somehow wound up dripping blood. He disappeared behind the cafeteria sideboards as the witches continued to dance. Then he reappeared with the head of a goat, dancing or struggling with the witches before disappearing again. Have you ever been bumped into by a naked man covered in blood before? Well, I have. He shoved past me as he returned to the dance. Now one of the women appeared to be pregnant, and a baby was ripped from her, even more drenched in blood than the blond man. The music was loud, pulsating, creepy, frenzied. Somehow, it all ended. The man and the witches vanished. I saw a small tree on the table and realized that what I had just witness was the prophesies – that Macbeth should not die until Dunsinane Wood came to Glamis and could only be killed by a man of no woman born, or one who from his mother’s womb had been untimely ripped. The woman in red still sat watching. The baby lay bloody in a tall white urn. We departed.

I should mention the music here, or rather the sound. In some places it was that creepy white noise, like a long exhale. Not a real specific sound, but blank noise. But at other times, it was gay music from the thirties, like someone had put on a radio. In one room I wandered into there even was a radio. I don’t know what this room was for. It contained two desks and a small fan with feathers on. The walls were covered with envelopes of all descriptions, and the desks were piled with books and papers. One of them was about ornithology. I went through a small washroom into an adjacent room that seemed to be some sort of waiting room, long and narrow with three chairs and an end table against the wall. I think there were packages, too.

Back in the large hall, led there by a man who turned out later to be Duncan, I witnessed the banquet scene. A long table was set up on the stage, making this the most typically theatrical scene. The guests were already seated when Macbeth and Lady Macbeth entered from either wing to take their seats at either end of the table. Then this sickly green light came on as a man with blood on his face entered. I assume it was Banquo. Macbeth didn’t see him at first, but then the scene turned into a sort of vision. The guests turned out to be witches who started making out with the guests, and Banquo rose up to accuse him as Macbeth fell on the floor, pulling himself along the edge of the stage. Then all of a sudden it’s over and Lady Macbeth is clearing everyone out, and then she leaves . . . but Macbeth is still there. A beam of light pierces through the hall , running down the center towards the stage from the back of the auditorium. Macbeth walks towards it, the audience parting before him. But back on the stage, the dark figure of a man stands atop the table, pointing at him . . . or reaching.

The scene ended, but I stayed, and that was when a tree bumped into me. The evergreen trees lining the wall started to move about the now dark room and suddenly we were in a forest. And then some of the trees started to glow with small white lights like frosted Christmas lights. The effect was somehow magical. Then there was a man in the midst of the trees . . . perhaps this is when Macbeth encountered Hecate. I honestly can’t remember.

I do know that I wound up wandering by myself again. Up on the top floor, I wandered through a maze of linen sheets into a black room with a bathtub in the middle. In the bathtub was a pile of bones.

The next room was back where I’d started, but this time empty. I peered into the nearest bathtub. It was filled with water and an eel – a real, live eel, swam endlessly round in circles.

A valet walked into the large bedroom with the paintings, made the bed, and departed. Later, in that same room, I watched the valet prepare Duncan for the party. He polished the king’s shoes, shaved his beard off with a straight razor. There was a tense moment when the valet appeared to be considering the razor at the king’s neck with far too much intensity, but then he broke and they started laughing.

We were in Macbeth’s bedchamber, a cave of a room lined with dark velvet drapes. The bed stood diagonally across one corner, and he collapsed onto it. We meandered about as he seemed to sleep. In the corner next to the bed lay a huge heap of papers. At the other hand the room was filled with bureaus and trunks and an armoire, forming an odd sort of pyramid of furniture. A large mirror sat opposite this heap. Lady Macbeth entered, perhaps coming from the party. She removed her long black sparkling dress, leaving her in a cream-coloured slip. She went over to Macbeth in bed, waking him up. An argument ensued. I believe this was the scene where he reveals what he has been told by the witches and she convinces him to kill the King. The fight choreography was fantastic. They dueled along the raised bench along the wall that would have been a window seat if there were a window. She shoved him down, he threw her off. She climbed on top of a bureau, stood triumphantly in an open drawer. He flung himself up to reach her, forcing her down. Finally, she clearly won.

In the gravel-filled garden Macbeth appeared to pray before a statue of the Virgin with such intensity that he appeared to be almost interrogating her at the same time that he caressed the stone figure. We all rushed next door into a long, small, narrow room with a stained glass window at one end – a chapel. The room contained a large black table in the center, and black masked attendants configured the audience at either end of the room. Hecate entered from the opposite doorway and they grappled with each other. She flung him over the table, he lay there pinned in an almost Christ-like position, gasping, pulled himself up, threw her against the wall. But then he stopped, staring at her hand. Now only her hand was lit, and he grasped it, then drew back, but couldn’t let go. “Is this a dagger I see before me, its handle towards my hand? . . . I go and it is done.” That’s what we were witnessing, but with no words. Macbeth’s wrestling with his conscience became a physical monologue.

Down a flight of stairs with a giant stained glass window of a playing card king.

I saw Macbeth trip slip into the King’s bedroom where he lay asleep and smother him with a pillow, then leave aghast with blood on his hands, going back to meet Lady Macbeth. The alarm sounded. The porter stood in the middle of the stairs, looking at his watch, waiting for it to go off. We all rushed towards the sound, in time to witness the King’s body being enshrouded in his blanket and borne off.

Back in the hall, a man knocked urgently at the door of the woman who I knew was currently trying on the robe in the room filled with dresses. He was drawn in. I stayed in the outer room, examining the papers. There was a trunk and someone gestured for me to open it, so I did. Light spilled out, backlighting small bits of torn up paper with words penciled on them. At the bottom was gravel and a card – a king with the eyes punched out. I reached down to touch it and realized that the trunk was filled with water. I picked up a slip of paper but couldn’t distinguish the words, and reached down to the bottom for the king. The card dripped in my hands before I left it drift back to the bottom. Going back to the desk, I saw two pieces of paper with words scrawled on them: words from Macbeth’s monologues, though what they were I can’t remember. Other papers had passages from the Bible typed out on them, pieces about revenge and fate and murder.

I encountered Macbeth and another man again rushing down a hallway. He turned down a corner and so did I, but no one else did. Macbeth and I ran through a maze of cardboard boxes piled up to the ceilings. Have you ever run at the heels of Macbeth? It’s an odd sensation.

We ended up in a room containing a pool table with bits of straw on the floor. In the opposite corner was a bar. In the center stood a small black table with three stools pulled up to it (where three spectators sat) and a lamp hanging over casting a pool of light. Two other men were already there. They set down a deck of cards, three glasses, and a bottle in a way that was both violent and graceful, sending the spectators off to the sides of the room. A card game ensued with some sort of discussion. We were all squeezed into one side of the room behind the pool table. I’m not entirely sure how or why it happened, but one of the men fled and Macbeth was suddenly going after the other, who again may have been Banquo, which I suspect because he ended up dead.

I don’t remember what happened next. I was back in Macbeth’s bedroom as he washed the blood off, as he told Lady Macbeth of his deeds.

Then we were in the banquet hall again. This time, though, I was in the back and the scene was worth watching again just for the design. I had clearly been at the wrong angle before. As I said, a long table was up on the stage. I have never seen so much fog used. It was thick to the point that you could see nothing behind them. It was like empty space – no wall, no curtains, nothing, just the frame of the proscenium arch. Again, Banquo entered, as did Duncan. The sickly green light pierced across the fog. Macbeth’s vision was beautiful and haunting. The actors were all backlight and, because of the fog, you could see the beams of light that framed their arms, moving with them, giving them the look of a painting. I don’t know how else to describe it, but I don’t think I’m explaining correctly. The way they moved it the composition of the scene turned into a sort of Last Supper with Duncan as Jesus. It was breathtaking.

The scene ended as before. Macbeth staggered into the light, and the dark figured loomed on the table above him. But this time, the figure was not content with threatening. Macduff, for so he was, sprang down, dove for Macbeth. And then a noose started a stately descent from the ceiling. Macduff drove, shoved Macbeth forward, somehow ending up on his shoulders. He took hold of the noose and forced it around Macbeth’s head. Though this was not the end, for Macbeth was not so easily caught, all of sudden he was completely ensnared. Macduff leapt off of his shoulders and slowly the lights went down as Macbeth was lifted into the air. His body twisted high above us in the darkness as we stood there in utter silence.

It took the intervention of the blackmasked stagehands to get us anywhere. They ushered us out swiftly and silently as the other actors continued to gaze upwards. I, too, even when walking out could hardly take my eyes from the body still suspended. I knew that it was just an actor in a harness, but I had been in this man’s bedchamber, run with him down the halls, witness the contortions of his soul, and the body up there somehow seemed more real than it was. There was something compelling about it.

We exited en mass into the scarlet bar where the evening had started. Now it was in full on cabaret mode with a jazz singer performing, backed by a small band, as people drank and chatted at the small round tables. It was something of a shock to the system. I stood there for a moment, getting my bearings, before threading my way through the crowds and out into the night air.

It wasn’t just coming back to reality, but to myself. For those few hours I almost seemed not to exist, even to myself. I was a ghost in a world more real than I was, a beak-skulled spectre. I suppose that’s why I don’t recall much about sensations or feelings. I remember how cold the water in the trunk was, the card dripping in my hands. I remember the pulse of the music and running my hands over things. But for the most part, I as an individual just didn’t matter, especially in that crowd of identical masks. The most individual moment I felt was running down that corridor with Macbeth. He didn’t recognize me or acknowledge me in any way, but the fact that I was only one there of my kind somehow made it more real.

The best way I can think to describe it is as a dream, especially in recall. Scenes just exist with no notion of how I got there or why I left. There was no dialogue and dozens of images for which I can find no meaning – the feathers in the sand, for instance, the glass case filled with shoes, a room with open umbrellas suspended from the ceiling. I wish I could attempt analysis of what it ‘meant’ or what it evoked, but I suspect it shall remain as a dream, with layers of meaning cropping up and other details fading away as I grasp helpless to keep them clear. It was the strangest thing, and I’d go back in a second if I could.
Current Music: BSG - Violence and Variations
grossisgoodgrossisgood on February 8th, 2010 11:58 pm (UTC)
That is exceedingly odd, but you put it in such good form!

(((((HUGS))))) Please take care of yourself!

(I have really high BP & have had tests ran in similar fashion for it... don't you wish the people with low BP & the people with high BP could some how reach a happy medium?!)