The problem with immersive theatre: why actors need extra protection from sexual assault

Performers in the experiential show Sleep No More allege that they were sexually assaulted by patrons, raising concerns about the vulnerability of actors

A scene from The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk

A scene from The Drowned Man by Punchdrunk
Photograph: Photo by Julian Abrams

Last week, Buzzfeed published an article detailing multiple instances in which performers and staffers of Sleep No More, New York’s long-running immersive experience, allege that they were sexually assaulted by patrons. These claims suggest that Sleep No More lacked policies to curb and manage audience misconduct. They also suggest that a culture of demeaning and degrading actors, a millennia-old phenomenon, is still very much with us.

That Sleep No More, a Punchdrunk show imported by a trio of US producers, has apparently become a flashpoint for assaults against actors isn’t a huge surprise. Because it’s an immersive production, there is no proscenium dividing actor and spectator, no seats to stay in. Audiences are masked…

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