Tag Archives: David Ellis

Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol

★★★★★

Leicester Square Theatre

A Pissedmas Carol

Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 28th November 2019

★★★★★

 

“bountiful instances of quick-witted, gleeful silliness”

 

Audiences are a voyeuristic bunch – from found-footage horror films to The Play That Goes Wrong, there is a proven appetite for watching things where what’s being shown feels like it shouldn’t be seen. So it’s no surprise that Magnificent Bastard Productions have struck gold with their format in which they get one of their actors drunk and have to roll with whatever punches they throw during the show. They’ve found success with both Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare and Sh*t-Faced Showtime previously, and that can now be counted as a triumvirate of triumphs with their new festive show, A Pissedmas Carol.

A Pissedmas Carol follows the plot of Charles Dickens’ classic A Christmas Carol with a cast of five and a script by Lewis Ironside. Or it intends to follow the plot, anyway, although the actor who’d got through two beers, a shot of vegan Baileys, and two thirds of a bottle of Captain Morgans over the course of four hours preceding the show lobbed most of the script out the window. The rules set out by the show’s MC (who incidentally, was Charles Dickens – played with adorable joviality by Will Seaward) dictate that whatever that actor chooses to do, the others must improvise around it. With a group of exceptional improvisers such as this, such a format leads to boundless hilarity. Once this performance’s drunk actor Daniel Quirke chooses to lick a castmate’s nose as a greeting, it becomes a running gag throughout the show, and when Quirke changes the ending of the story on the fly by putting Scrooge in a coma for forty years, the change is embraced fully by the other actors. The fundamental rule of improv – always say yes – is taken very seriously, which results in bountiful instances of quick-witted, gleeful silliness.

The improv and alcohol-heavy nature of the show could very easily lead to wearisome indulgence in the performances, but thankfully there is a keen awareness from the cast, as well as clear measures to ensure the experience is always firmly centred around audience enjoyment – the MC will sometimes usher things along, or Charlotte Brooke’s piano accompaniment will lead the scenes forward. The audience are also invited to deepen the chaos, as select members are able to put another drink in the inebriated actor’s hand when they so wish. By the end of the show, Quirke had got through a further three beers, which kept the voyeuristic excitement ramping up.

As mentioned, the performances are roundly excellent, and the fun that these actors are clearly having on stage with each other permeates through to the audience. They capitalise on every unexpected comic opportunity, with James Murfitt as Scrooge and Katy Baker (who also directed) as the Ghost of Christmas Past standing out in a scene where – thanks to Quirke’s machinations – their rendition of ‘Walking in the Air’ as they flew to the past brought on reams of laughter. That’s not the only song either – A Pissedmas Carol features a host of Christmas classics, all fantastically sung, from Issy Wroe-Wright’s scene-stealing ‘Last Christmas’ to the gorgeous harmonies in ‘Fairytale of New York’.

A Pissedmas Carol has carved out a format that sets it apart from any other Christmas show, yet also puts it head and shoulders above them. Forget panto – this is the most fun you’re going to have in a theatre this festive season.

 

Reviewed by Ethan Doyle

Photography by Rah Petherbridge

 


Sh!t-Faced Showtime: A Pissedmas Carol

Leicester Square Theatre until 5th January

 

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
Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet | ★★★ | June 2019

 

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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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