Tag Archives: Christopher Lane

Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

★★★★

Leicester Square Theatre

Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 14th July 2022

★★★★

 

“They know their business, and they know their audiences, well”

 

If you saunter along to the Leicester Square Theatre expecting traditional Shakespeare, you are in for a rude—a very rude—surprise. This ain’t your father’s Shakespeare. Oddly enough it is the kind of Shakespeare the Bard himself might enjoy. Enjoy—if he’d gone on a mad pub crawl beforehand, and decided to stop by the theatre to see the latest production of Romeo and Juliet. If well fortified beforehand, he’d enjoy the show—and probably not notice how the cast have changed the ending. And quite a few other things. But then, good times, fuelled with lots of alcohol, are what Sh*t-faced Shakespeare are all about. They know their business, and they know their audiences, well.

Sh*t-faced Shakespeare’s brand of Shakespeare (touring since 2010) “seeks to introduce a new generation of theatregoers to the works of the Bard by reviving the raucous, interactive and vibrant nature of Elizabethan theatre with a very modern twist.” This is one of the most accurate descriptions of a show I’ve ever seen in press materials put out by a company, and they win my admiration for that. It’s great to see such a young crowd turn out for Shakespeare in a comedy club setting. Veterans of the Sh*t-faced approach will know in advance the set up. To summarize: one of the company comes on stage as MC to announce that another member of the company has been chosen to be the drunk for the evening’s performance. Drinking heavily for several hours before the show, this performer will also be expected to drink more every time a bell or gong is struck by a member of audience. While performing Shakespeare.

On this particular evening, it was Juliet’s turn to take one for the team. But there’s not just drinking and slapstick involved here. There’s audience participation that involves acting as well. Short of a County Paris for this performance of Romeo and Juliet, a good sport sporting a “Slayer” tee shirt was selected to play the part of Juliet’s father-approved fiancé. Very appropriate. Out of this formula the cast of Sh*t-faced Shakespeare proceeds to build an entertainment that pays no attention to the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. They just focus on the comedy instead. You didn’t know Romeo and Juliet was a comedy?

Seriously, kudos to the cast. David Ellis, Louise Lee, Jessica Brindle, Richard Hughes, Christopher Lane, John Mitton, Lucy Farrar and Stacey Norris are all seasoned soldiers of the Sh*t-faced scene, which includes knowing just how badly to mess up the best known speeches while maintaining eye contact with the audience most of the time. Amazingly enough, no one got hurt as the evening (and the drinking) progressed. These actors are tough, and experienced. It’s also impossible to know whether they have been drinking, which speaks well of their classical training. The programme reassuringly points out that company members are never expected to drink on consecutive nights, or more than four times a month. They consider themselves to be more temperate drinkers than the average West End actor.

In short, if you feel your friends need a bit more culture, and fewer nights at the pub, take them to a Sh*t-faced Shakespeare show. They will have a good time, and might not even notice that they are no longer at their local. And rest assured that the “real” Shakespeare’s reputation will survive, despite the “rough magic” dealt out by Sh*t-faced Shakespeare.

 

Reviewed by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet

Leicester Square Theatre

 

Previous Shit-Faced shows at this venue:
Sh!t-Faced Macbeth | ★★★★★ | July 2021
A Pissedmas Carol | ★★★★★ | December 2021

 

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Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

★★★★

Above the Stag

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Above The Stag

Reviewed – 22nd November 2019

★★★★

 

“arguably the least subtle show to ever grace the stage, yet it is so fantastically brazen about it that you can’t help but be charmed by it”

 

Right, I’ll just come straight out and say it. This show has ruined Pinocchio for me. There. Happy, guys? My childhood has been well and truly shattered.

Why? Because Jon Bradfield & Martin Hooper’s Pinocchio: No Strings Attached! is not a screen-to-stage magical Disney story for the family. Instead it is a filthy, raunchy, hilarious and shockingly rambunctious romp which takes the phrase ‘adult pantomime’ to dizzying new heights. How? Well, let me just say that when Pinocchio lies in this show, it isn’t his nose that grows bigger… suffice to say I’ve never wished someone to be truthful more.

Just about every sex joke ever conceived (no pun intended) is crammed into this panto, which may as well have been called ‘Carry on Puppeteering’ as far as innuendo is concerned. It is arguably the least subtle show to ever grace the stage, yet it is so fantastically brazen about it that you can’t help but be charmed by it. Make no mistake, this is not a play for prudes – the humour is so blue it’s setting up fake fact-checking websites as we speak.

The basic story is more or less intact, but switched up for a more modern retelling aimed at the LGBTQ+ community and heavily Frankensteined to make it infinitely ruder and incredibly camp. It’s certainly great fun, but don’t let that fool you into thinking that Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is a play without heart – love and acceptance are very much the order of the day. Alongside Pinocchio (Jared Thompson) embarking on a journey to become a real boy, his main struggle here is coming out and accepting his own sexuality as he falls for Joe (Oli Dickson). However, the story is not strictly his and each character has their own love battle, bar the villainous Figaro (Christopher Lane), who as the town’s corrupt, bigoted mayor seeks to ruin things for everyone.

Despite all the low-brow ‘take me through the back passage’ jokes, the play is quite often refreshingly progressive in opening conversations about xenophobia, homophobia and people of colour struggling to find their identity in the LGBTQ+ world. There are also plenty of clever topical references thrown in at the delight of the audience, some of which are so current I can only assume they are written in the moment they appear in the news.

It is always important for a panto to be visually stimulating, and David Shields’ set design does not disappoint – it’s colourful and exciting without cluttering the stage; Jackie Orton’s costumes are similarly pleasing to the eye. The score (Jon Bradfield), whilst not the most innovative musically, does a great job of furthering the characters’ love stories in a succinct and enjoyable way, and the lyrics are an absolute riot.

The stand out performance is without a doubt Matthew Baldwin, in drag as Geppetta. He commands the stage with utter confidence and has the whole audience in his palm for the play’s entirety. His performance is relaxed, almost lackadaisical yet playful, and the timing of his rapier-sharp wit is the mark of a true virtuoso. It isn’t just Baldwin though, the whole cast are to be praised for the show’s slickness. The characters are memorable for the most part, the energy is never at risk of dropping and Andrew Beckett’s attentive direction has created a show that feels completely precise and polished.

If this year you fancy a deliciously crude panto that sticks to the winning formula and doesn’t pretend to be anything different, then Pinocchio: No Strings Attached is the one to see. Just don’t bring your kids.

 

Reviewed by Sebastian Porter

Photography by PGB Studios

 


Pinocchio: No Strings Attached!

Above The Stag until 11th January

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Title Of Show | ★★★★ | February 2019
Goodbye Norma Jeane | ★★ | March 2019
Romance Romance | ★★★★ | March 2019
Queereteria TV | ★★ | April 2019
Fanny & Stella: The Shocking True Story  | ★★★★ | May 2019
Happily Ever Poofter | ★★★★ | July 2019
Velvet | ★★★ | October 2019

 

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