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
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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