(Spoilers somewhat below)
I returned to the McKittrick Hotel last night. I said before, it was only a matter of time. This may have been my favorite visit yet. I was sincerely surprised by the amount of new material I discovered this trip. New actors, even new characters I had never seen before. Rooms I had never been in or known existed. This time I spent a lot of time with two particular characters. One was the bartender of the speakeasy in Gallow Green, the other was Agnes Naismith—a young woman searching for her missing sister (even turning to Hecate for answers), and in real life a convicted witch in 17th century Scotland. Both of them primarily stayed on the fourth floor (the town of Gallow Green) though occasionally would sprint to another floor to meet somebody else. When I came upon a scene I remembered from before, sometimes I would wander away to other parts of the building, others I would remain entranced. I spent a lot of time exploring the space, no longer preoccupied with finding the actors and following specific scenes. I read letters between Agnes and her missing sister in Agnes’ bedroom and sitting room. I explored Macduff’s office and read the nurse’s notes in the hospital.
At one point, I followed the bartender out of Agnes & Hecate’s scene, and was brought to the candy shop (I was the only one with him at that point) where he gave me a slice of something sweet before we continued back to his speakeasy. He “gave” me to a woman he danced with, who led me away before a man on the telephone told me to “get my bloody hands off of her”. When I returned to the speakeasy later, the bartender challenged me to to a sort of card game (which I think I lost) and then offered me a drink.
The highlight of the evening was when I returned to Agnes. She had come into the Speakeasy, but left with a few of us after Banquo came in (I had seen him beaten to death with a brick the last time I was here). In the tailor’s shop she cut a passage from the bible and placed it in a locket and looped a bit of thread to make a necklace. She cross to her bedroom on the other side of the hall, when she took me by the hand and drew me in. My mask removed, she gave me the locket and began to speak of Manderley—I quickly realized her words were from the opening of Rebecca. Finally she told me that the locket would keep me safe before shoving me out the false back of the closet. I exited onto the main street just in time to see Macbeth sprinting past me towards the bar, and followed right behind into the Witch’s apparition, a pounding, frenzied dance so unlike anything else anywhere in the building.
I was glad to see the apparition again. I was excited to discover those rooms. An interrogation-type room with nothing more than a chair and a hanging lamp. A closet with a filing cabinet filled with bird eggs. More of Macduff’s apartment, including his office filled with fishing paraphernalia. I saw plenty of scenes in rooms I’d previously only ever seen empty, and with characters I’d only ever seen on outskirts.
It was a strange feeling returning. The moment I stepped inside, I felt this immense rush of familiarity and of adrenaline for the possibilites that lay ahead. One of the strangest things I noted this time was the smells. I’ve read that smell is one of the strongest and most distinct triggers of memory. I became acutely aware of the smell of the rooms, the floors, even the people. The hospital was sharp and antiseptic, life bleached away and left painfully chemical. The damp earthy smell of the speakeasy, with its woodchip floor. The forest on the fifth floor. The most distinct was Hecate herself—her perfume intoxicating and indescribable, lingering behind her as she made her way about the rooms. While I hadn’t consciously remembered it, it instantly put me back in her quarters when I had a one-on-one encounter with her last year.
I purchased the souvenir program at the end of the night—with twenty dollars I found in the street just outside the hotel. I haven’t even finished it yet, but it has already answered some questions while opening up a thousand more. Beautiful photographs pull me back with every page I turn.
I am continually lost in the emotions and memories of The McKittirick. Once again, it will be a long time before I’m back. I’ve no idea if I’ll return before the production closes—if and when it does. I would love to see what Punchdrunk comes up with—with Faust and The Maque of the Red Death among their past credits, I look forward to where they turn next.
We can never return to Manderley.
Or maybe, perhaps, with time.
Sleep No More