Tag Archives: Flora Doble

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Macbeth

★★★★★

Leicester Square Theatre

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Macbeth

Leicester Square Theatre

Reviewed – 8th July 2021

★★★★★

 

“an exceptional show from beginning to end”

 

The story of the Macbeths and their murderous grab for power in eleventh-century Scotland is one of Shakespeare’s most renowned plays. First performed in 1606, Macbeth (the play and its characters) command great respect on the theatrical stage…that is, until one of the cast members drinks multiple pints and half a bottle of gin just before curtain up.

That, essentially, is the premise of Shit-Faced Shakespeare. A staple at fringe festivals across the country, Shit-Faced Shakespeare has entered its fifth year at the Leicester Square Theatre, bringing much needed revelry to a socially distanced audience. At each performance, one professionally trained actor is chosen to get drunk before the show begins, and their sober co-stars must react accordingly to their sozzled antics. One audience member is even given a gong to hit if the show is too tame and another drink is required, whilst another receives a bucket in case of emergency.

The drunk for this evening was James Murfitt who played Prince Malcolm and one of the Three Witches. Stumbling and slurring, Murfitt injected pure chaos into the play, making comments about The Guardian reviewers in the audience (who, apparently, will love his penis flag), wanting to hook up with the Domino’s delivery boy, and insisting Malcolm is a black belt in judo.

Far from the bargain bin from which they joked they came, the cast were exceedingly good at improvising and bouncing off one another. Their recall to odd quips made by Murfitt was exceptional and served well to tie the whole play together amongst the havoc on stage. Will Seaward who played Duncan was particularly strong at this, and his booming voice reminiscent of Brian Blessed juxtaposed with Murfitt’s slurred speech perfectly.

Despite all the silliness, the show was highly polished. The sets, which Murfitt tried to climb on multiple occasions, were elaborate, the props were humorous (the knife Macbeth ‘sees before him’ attached to the end of a fishing line controlled by Murfitt), and the lighting and sound effects were well-timed and highly atmospheric. The costumes were suitably Shakespearean, and regular costume changes posed an extra (but hilarious) obstacle to the drunk.

A notably funny bit of prop comedy was the murder of Fleance, Banquo’s son, who is played by a puppet on wheels. A member of the audience was given a toy crossbow to shoot at Fleance as if playing some twisted carnival game. This was laugh-out-loud funny and was a brilliant example of just how creative the team behind the show are.

Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth is an exceptional show from beginning to end. Fortunately for the audience, its premise means that one could watch the play over and over again without getting bored due to new hijinks and jokes afoot at each performance.

 

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

 Production image by Andrew AB Photography

 

Leicester Sqaure Theatre

Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Macbeth

Leicester Square Theatre until 11th September

 

Other shows reviewed by Flora this year:
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021
Godot is a Woman | ★★★½ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews

 

Godot is a Woman

Godot is a Woman

★★★½

Pleasance Theatre

Godot is a Woman

Godot is a Woman

Pleasance Theatre

Reviewed – 8th June 2021

★★★½

 

“all will certainly be inspired and enlightened by its end”

 

In 1955, the English-language version of Samuel Beckett’s play Waiting for Godot premiered in London. Initially denounced by critics as ‘boring’ and ‘a play where nothing happens’, Beckett’s tragicomedy about Vladimir and Estragon waiting endlessly for a man named Godot (who – spoiler – never arrives) is now considered one of the most significant plays of the twentieth century due to its exploration of the human condition.

However, despite such a universal theme, an ugly sexism hangs over the play’s casting. Beckett strongly objected to the idea of women taking on the roles of the play’s two protagonists, his estate going as far to file lawsuits against theatre companies who attempted to do so. Through a combination of debate, dance numbers, and, as expected, tedious waiting, theatre troupe Silent Faces address this outdated restriction in a thoroughly playful manner in their new show Godot is a Woman.

Jack Wakely, Josie Underwood, and Cara Withers (the two former also co-writing the play alongside Cordelia Stevenson) take to the stage in the scruffy attire and bowler hats associate with Beckett’s two leads. The trio work harmoniously together, bouncing off each other and switching between roles with ease.

The play starts off rather slow with little dialogue, most likely intended to reflect the sedate pace of Beckett’s original work. This is admittedly a bit of a slog especially for those unfamiliar with the source material which the three are parodying.

The play picks up significantly in its second half with choreographed dances, lively debate in a mock court trial, and several dramatic costume changes. A particular highlight is a medley of hits by female artists from Madonna to Dua Lipa while the cast list female firsts and achievements since Beckett’s death in 1989. It is (rightly so) argued here that social and cultural attitudes to women have changed so significantly in the last three decades that it is frankly absurd to uphold the wishes of a dead man who may have indeed changed his opinion had he lived into the twenty-first century.

The mock trial is the strongest section of the performance, eliciting the most laughter from the audience and clearly communicating the ridiculousness of this gender restriction. It begs the question why the entire show did not take on this format as it is here where the cast really find their rhythm, passion, and voice.

The set (Frances Gibon) features the leafless tree backdrop and the rock on which Estragon repeatedly sits of the original play. There are several amusing props including a Waiting for Godot book that hangs by a rope above the stage (acting as the holy book to swear by in the court scenes) and a diagram of prostate used to (poorly) explain why Vladimir, who frequently has to leave the stage to urinate, cannot be played by a woman.

The sound design (Ellie Isherwood) is particularly strong with jolly telephone ‘hold’ music playing almost constantly throughout the performance to evoke a sense of endless waiting. Audio clips from BBC Radio 4 are also utilised well to demonstrate the intense discourse and lasting legacy around the play and its performance.

In Godot is a Woman, the unceasing waiting of Beckett’s play is ultimately replaced with action, movement, and liveliness. It is a symbolic moment when Wakely, Underwood and Withers announce that they will be ‘going, not waiting’ and leave the stage, something Beckett’s characters are unable to do. Those unfamiliar with Beckett’s seminal work may struggle initially with this performance but all will certainly be inspired and enlightened by its end.

 

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Ali Wright

 


Godot is a Woman

Cockpit Theatre until 12th June

 

Reviewed this year by Flora:
Ginger Johnson & Pals | ★★★★ | Pleasance Theatre | June 2021

 

Click here to see our most recent reviews