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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