Tag Archives: Christopher Lane

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet
★★★

Leicester Square Theatre

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 21st June 2019

★★★

 

“Whilst it didn’t have my sides splitting, it’s still a fun way to spend an evening”

 

The idea is this: you take five classically trained actors, spend weeks and weeks rehearsing a Shakespeare play, then, come showtime, for every performance one cast member gets ten out of ten drunk- or at least a solid seven and a half- and hilarity ensues.

Our drunk for the evening is David Ellis, playing Hamlet, and I can confirm he was definitely drunk – a point of contention in previous reviews. The script often seems to get in the way of his good time and he gets in to a rhythm of reciting his very wordy monologues double-time so he can get to the fun bit: licking his co-actors and throwing stuff at the audience.

The compere, Beth-Louise Priestley, spends much of the show ushering Ellis on and off stage, ensuring he’s polite to the rest of the cast and doesn’t throw anything too heavy at the audience (he does accidentally lob a book but I’ve been assured no audience members were hurt during this production). She is clearly genuinely enthused but I suppose owing to the fact that Sh!t-Faced has been running as long as it has, some of her lines feel a little over-rehearsed and sometimes she struggles to inject the necessary spontaneity in to her delivery.

Magnificent Bastard Productions has been running Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare now for a good few years. I imagine they kept coming up against the fact that the success or failure of the night is very much dependent on whether the drunk is a funny drunk. Otherwise you’ve got an inexplicably abridged Shakespeare play with one person who can’t remember their lines and just wants to take a nap. Not super fun. So, their solution is to make the whole script a bit silly; give the sober actors a chance to crack a joke or two. Unfortunately, this means there’s much less room for genuine improv and you can’t tell if the drunkard is cracking their own joke or reciting the script. You would think that the point of it being Shakespeare is that it’s traditionally very serious and stuffy, and adding a drunk person gives a good dose of giddy unpredictability. But if the script is already farcical, it comes off a bit like a touring school production – a way for the kids to get excited about an old play.

It feels a little formulaic but I suppose that’s to be expected when what started as a raucous fringe production moves to a West End theatre. That said, the cast still seem to be having a great time and they are obviously genuinely fond of each other which makes all the difference with improv.

Whilst it didn’t have my sides splitting, it’s still a fun way to spend an evening. Make sure you’ve got a drink in hand, this is not ideal for a sober night out.

 

Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Leicester Square Theatre until 14th September

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Murder, She Didn’t Write | ★★★ | February 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice | ★★★★ | April 2018
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet | ★★★★ | June 2018
Murder She Didn’t Write | ★★★★ | September 2018
Sh!t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! | ★★★ | September 2018
Stick Man | ★★★½ | October 2018
Sh!t-Faced Showtime: Oliver With A Twist | ★★ | March 2019
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: The Taming Of The Shrew | ★★★★★ | April 2019

 

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Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Merchant

Shit-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 19th  April 2018

★★★★

“perhaps unsurprisingly, not for the purists, but a joy for everybody else”

 

Magnificent Bastard Productions’ Shakespeare adaptations have a very simple premise; the plays are performed straight, but one of the actors has spent a few hours before the show getting very, very drunk. For predictable reasons, namely not giving the actors a deft case of cirrhosis of the liver, Magnificent Bastard Productions rotate a large cast around various roles, providing different characters and actors with the opportunity to drink. On the evening of this review, Louise Lee was the drunkard du jour, playing Shylock’s daughter Jessica.

The humour (and therefore the meat) of this wilfully uproarious production comes from Lee’s inability or unwillingness to perform her role as intended, resulting in ridiculous and often abstract tangents to which the sober actors respond. In this sense, Shit-faced Shakespeare has much in common with traditional improvised shows, but with the madness sourced from just one highly unpredictable actor. Further cementing the improv feel of the show is the inclusion of a compere (Saul Marron) to introduce the rules of the show and provide occasional commentary/support on Lee’s antics.

And antics there certainly were. It’s hard to gauge where the drunkenness stopped and Lee’s blank cheque to cause a nuisance began, but the contrast of her stumbling (through half-remembered lines and also stumbling more generally) against a traditional cast of actors ‘doing Shakespeare properly’ is genuinely very funny, if occasionally fundamentally at odds with dramatic contents of a given scene. Where some of the best laughs, as always with improv, come from are the baffled attempts of performers to go along with whatever insanity has just been established; I occasionally felt as though one actor constantly being the butt of the joke, whether willingly or not, lent a slight sense of cruelty to the proceedings. It might have been nice to have the compere introduce Lee as the star of the show during the introduction – a more personal touch might have lessened the occasional, nagging feeling of being part of a baying mob.

I sometimes wonder with improvisation whether things would in reality play out differently the following night, but I had no such concerns here; this is a neat and effective take on improv, allowing for a genuinely unpredictable atmosphere, with control of the piece flitting between the compere, the sober actors, the drunken Lee as Jessica, and, in a delightful touch, even the audience.

Overall, this was a great Summer chortler that provides glorious improvisation madness under the guise of a classic Shakespeare play. Shit-faced Shakespeare is, perhaps unsurprisingly, not for the purists, but a joy for everybody else.

 

Reviewed by Matthew Wild

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Shit-faced Shakespeare: The Merchant of Venice

Leicester Square Theatre until 2nd June 2018

 

 

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