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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


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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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