“one of the funniest experiences you can have a theatre”
It’s written into law that, like Hamlet or The Importance of Being Earnest throughout the year, there must be at least 12 productions of A Christmas Carol running when the festive seasons rolls around. Without a doubt, A Pissedmas Carol tops the list.
Produced by Sh!tfaced Showtime (who also do Sh!tfaced Shakespeare), the show is a perfectly ordinary telling of the Charles Dickens classic save for one simple-but-genius twist: one of the cast of five gets stupendously drunk before the show and continues drinking throughout. It’s something that could easily go horribly wrong, but this team pulls it off with total brilliance.
In this performance, James Murfitt was the unfortunate actor who had to knock back some beers and most of a bottle of Tanqueray gin before the show even began, which was followed by more beers and even some Gaviscon during the play. In many ways, Murfitt seemed like the best choice from the audience’s perspective since they were playing Scrooge.
It’s only natural that the inebriated actor will want to go off-script, and the rest of the cast (Katy Baker, John Mitton, Issy Wroe Wright, Hal Hillman, Will Seaward, Daniel Quirke, Charlotte Brooke and Nick House in rotation across performances) do a stellar job of going along with it without derailing the plot too much. However, when that actor is playing the lead character who has a lot of control over the plot, it leads to a lot of derailing that ends up being exceptionally hilarious. In this version, Scrooge becomes a queer icon, drops the c-word like it’s going out of style, and completely rewrites the ending by murdering Bob Cratchitt. Seeing the gleam in the actors’ eyes as they magnificently mutilate the source material is superb, and they keep the audience in the palm of their hands throughout, in the most sidesplitting ways.
The audience get to be involved in the action too, with members bestowed with horns and crackers by the bellowing narrator that can keep the drinks flowing when used, and charades suggestions being played out on stage.
Thanks to Katy Baker’s slick direction and actors’ exquisite interplay and improv skills, A Pissedmas Carol is one of the funniest experiences you can have a theatre, and one of the best presents you can give yourself this Christmas.
“an excellent format for a boozy night out with friends”
Continuing their now regular slot at the Leicester Square theatre, the Sh*t-Faced Showstoppers have swapped the boozy bard for drunken Dickens. If you haven’t heard of this now notorious troupe, five actors take to the stage to perform a classical theatre piece. The only catch is that one of them is very drunk. The group are most well-known for their take on Shakespeare classics; however this version of the Dickens musical drew just as big a crowd as most of their shows.
As you can imagine, or may well know, these shows are loose and riotous. The theatre itself has four bars, and it took fifteen minutes after the scheduled start time for the audience to move from the bar into their seats. The tacky set design with window etchings such as ‘Dickolas Dickleby woz ere’ further indicated what the audience were to expect. Indeed, what this group have created is an excellent format for a boozy night out with friends. The atmosphere in the room before the show was excitable, and the audience were free to shout and get involved. I was seated with beer in hand ready for whatever carnage may unfold.
The general consensus in the room was that most people enjoyed it, which was clear from the general hysteria in the room. Sadly, for me, I rather felt like the only sober person at a party full of jolly and drunk acquaintances. The drunken actor, playing Oliver Twist, slurred plenty of lines and went off on ludicrous tangents, speaking to the audience about subjects that had nothing to do with the play. It was a controlled mess which most people loved, however I felt rather short changed. Aside from the one inebriated actor, there wasn’t much to enjoy. The show appeared to be framed in a way that tailored best to the drunken actor, with short and simplified scenes that had plenty of room to allow them to be as silly as they want. Perhaps if it was the other way round, and the actor had to navigate themselves through a very tight-knit and nuanced show, I would have found it more entertaining.
The company has a unique premise, and indeed a crop of great talent. Their format has already achieved great success and looks as if it will continue to do so. If you are someone looking for a funny night out with friends, maybe a cultural pit-stop before a big night out, get yourself a ticket. If you are a theatre fan looking a comedic spin on some of your favourite shows, and you decide to go, maybe have a few drinks before.