London's Burning and Sleep No More

Trip Start Jun 25, 2011
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Trip End Dec 24, 2011


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Flag of United States  , New York
Monday, August 8, 2011

London is on fire and the news in New York is not really that bothered. When it finally does turn up in the news its reported in a seriously distorted manner; e.g. replace the picture on the front page of the hoodie, with plasma screen under his arm, being dragged away by police with that of a scruffy 'eco-warrior' stereotype, with unlit fire bomb under his arm, being dragged away by police. Read into this what you will.

Nevertheless its only a little bit frightening on Sunday the 7th, so we go about our business visiting Lori in the Lower East Side to get instructions about how to care for Squid, her 12 yr old Jack Russel (see 'Into the Woods'), who we'll be looking after for a few days next week. Squid largely shows us around the apartment, with Lori's help, pointing out his paddling pool in the back garden, the hose where we fill it up from and how he likes to bark at the hose when its turned on. His mood goes a little somber when he realises we're being shown all this so we can look after him and therefore Lori will be leaving. Lori's apartment is very cool (literally as well as aesthetically considering her new Air Con unit - YAS!), with pictures everywhere and her Emmy (received for her work as a producer on the Rosie O'Donnell chat show) sitting casually in one corner.  

In the evening we head back to Brooklyn for a night of (in Victoria's words) 'spectacular rounds of 'Spot It'. Dangerous feuds with Frida. [and] Songs with our names in them'. 
 
Come Monday the 8th, things in London have got increasingly scary and as a result we spend almost the entirety of the day contacting friends and family and refreshing the live guardian blog about the riots every few minutes; each time reading that the chaos has spread further. This leaves us feeling a bit unsettled when the time comes to head to the West Village to see PunchDrunk's 'Sleep No More'; the company's latest immersive theatre piece based on Shakespeare's MacBeth, and the factual story of the last executions for witchcraft in Western Europe that took place in the 1600's in Scotland. We know it will be mental and just before we go in we wonder, considering how prevalent the madness in London is in our minds, if its a good idea. 

2 steps inside the fictional hotel created for the show and dressed as a 1920's speak easy style cabaret bar, and we realise its the best thing we could have gone to, taking us right out of reality for a good 3 hours. 
We begin in a lift with one performer and about 15 other audience members all dressed in creepy masks (see photo below - the only one we have from the show). As we think we have reached the floor we are all going to exit onto, the performer declares 'Here we are' and tricks only one person into getting out of the lift and into a darkened smoky room, explaining that 'this experience is better done alone'. The rest of us are distributed to other floors. 
When we finally get let out, clutching each other tightly, we see that every detail in the design is, as expected, perfect, and we wander through the 100 rooms picking up books, reading letters, etc, in a mix of bedrooms, nursery's, asylums, woods, abandoned hotel receptions gathering dust, ball rooms dressed as forests and Victorian looking streets. 
The most memorable scene we stumble upon is the 3 witches and Macbeth; dance music thumping, strobe flashing, the 3 witches (one bald woman, one slight asian lady and a naked man with a ram's head) dance manically with a fake baby, spitting blood into the gathered crowd who have to move to avoid being hit by the choreography. Fucking genius. 
The finale, the banquet scene of MacBeth played out in slow motioned and culminating in MacBeth swinging from a noose above the audience's head, is amazing.  

Afterwards reality returns a little so we head back to the Lower East Side to the Bowery Poetry Club for a drink. The bar man from the other night, who we thought was amazing, is there off duty. He thinks, because he has one English friend and a Spurs football keyring on his keys that he is an authority on the unrest in London (now also ongoing in Manchester, Birmingham, Bristol and Liverpool). He tells us its a good thing and that we wouldn't understand because we are white. Hmmm. Don't tell Londoners about their city. Prick.
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