Forbidden temporalities: the wayward aesthetics of Punchdrunk’s "Sleep No More"


  • Tom Fish Kennesaw State University



performing arts, queer theory, affect theory, theatre, immersive, Critical theory


Punchdrunk’s Sleep No More is an immersive theatrical adaptation of Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hitchcock’s Rebecca that has been staged in New York since 2011 with over 2000 performances. Sprawled over a hundred rooms within three intricately designed warehouses, the event offers a visceral exploration of a labyrinthine space and the potential for anonymous—even erotic—one-on-one encounters with a performer in the dark. This paper offers a new angle on Punchdrunk’s immersive style by considering the embodiment of temporality in performance and its concurrent aesthetic politics. Borrowing from queer theory’s temporal turn, it details how the company manipulates time in the space to create a ‘wayward’ aesthetic, borrowing from the etymology meaning “turned away” and the First Folio’s name for the witches as “Weyward Sisters”. Ultimately, it looks to encourage further queer readings of time in popular theatrical performance while also broadening the notion of resistant reading strategies to consider queer embodiment and theatre’s haptic relationship to time.


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