William Shakespeare died 400 years ago, yet his texts are still performed across the globe to this very day. We could get into a philosophical discussion about their relevance and generational-crossing impact but this isn’t that type of blog! Instead I pose you this question: How do you present Shakespeare’s centuries-old plays with a fresh spin and leave the audience belly laughing in their seats? The answer, get one of the actors completely shit-faced!
As soon as I’d heard about Magnificent Bastard Productions idea of Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare, I knew this was something I wanted, nay, needed to see. The premise is simple enough, a good length of time before the show the cast take a role of the dice to summon the spirit of the Bard himself and condemn one of the actors to become completely, unequivocally, off their tits drunk. How do we know they’re not just pretending? Well the host of the show presents to you just how much they’ve drank at the opening of the curtain and also presents them with more they could possibly down throughout the performance. Then, after divvying out some useful tools to the audience and going over the safety rules (one of which includes a bucket) the play begins.
Our drunkard for the evening was Saul Marron and what a splendid choice he was! When the inebriate entered the stage, you immediately knew you were in for a good night. I chortled as he Spidermanned his way across the stage, continuously kicked the air to emphasise a joke or pun, stole other actors lines, imitated bird callings and was forced to carry a blow up mace in place of a sword because for all their ramblings on stage, the company knew better than to let someone who is shit-faced come on stage with a weapon.
Yes these choices of drunks for the evening have lines but do they actually say them? Not one bit. The real sympathy goes out to the rest of the sober ensemble who have to dance around the idling of the drunkard on stage…to continuously hilarious and at times genius results. Never in my life would I have thought to have heard Hero exclaim “I did not complete Anal my lord!” in Much Ado About Nothing.
What I think makes Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare work so well is that the actors are not amateurs in any capacity. The company, which consists of Stacey Norris, Rob Smython, Beth-Louise Priestley, Victoria Fitz-Gerald, Jack Bence, Ruth Williams, Saul Marron, Louise Lee, James Murfitt and John Sebastian Trixibelle Petherbridge Mitton are all professionally trained actors in Shakespeare, comedy, improvisation or stand up.
In addition to my praise of the company, what Magnificent Bastard Productions has found is a gap in the Shakespearean market. The company tend to perform the same show that is currently on at the Globe, so if you’re an avid lover of Shakespeare and you wish to see Shakespeare done right you could go to the afternoon performance at the magnificent Globe Theatre on the Southbank. Then afterwards you can see the same play that evening, for a fraction of the price (Unless you were a cheapskate Groundling like myself) and see it turned on its head.
Now, whilst I personally would see this type of show and the companies multiple variations of productions again and again, I could see how this is not everyone’s tankard of beer. If you do not find inebriated actors able to reach your funny bone or, subsequently, if you do not wish to see the Bard’s words presented in anything other than their original Iambic or Trochaic rhythm, then you’re best to head elsewhere or hitch a ride to Stratford-Upon-Avon.
However, if you’re willing to sit down with your own pick of poison and get ready to laugh, giggle and jeer at these rather silly folk on stage, then get yourself a drink and a ticket A.S.A.P!
Stin’s Final Thought: I know America has ‘Drunk Shakespeare’ and now the UK has ‘Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare’…so how do I get a trademark on an Australian version?
Nah, Aussies are always shit-faced so it wouldn’t be any different to how we usually perform Shakespeare.
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare is playing at the Leicester Square Theatre, London. The company also has various productions currently running across the UK (including the Edinburgh Fringe Festival) as well various states in the USA. Click the link below for their website and information.