Unlike roughly half the audience at the Leicester Square Theatre that night at Shitfaced Shakespeare, I was not, it has to be admitted, a newcomer to the Shitfaced experience. Having seen the quintet-formed company ply their alcoholic wares at the Underbelly at last year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival, it was to be an interesting experience to see how they developed the show – here replacing The Merchant of Venice with A Midsummer Night’s Dream and pushing one unfortunate thespian into a booze-fueled escapade.
It may be worth splitting the review into two paths at this juncture for the sake of those who have and haven’t seen the show. For those who haven’t – make sure you do – this is not an experience to be missed. The novelty of the concept does not wear thin for the course of the hour, and the actors rip the best lines out of each other and the alcohol fervour keeps everyone’s blood up until the very end. The originality and brilliant concept makes for some side-splitting yet entirely spontaneous moments – in the case of our performance, the actor cutting his leg open then spending the rest of his time as Lysander in fits of sobs whilst pleading for more alcohol. Just get a ticket and enjoy the experience – drunk people are always fun and seeing a subversion of Shakespearean norms is not to be missed.
However it has to be said that, for Shitfaced regulars, Midsummer’s did feel like a strange choice for a show – for one it already involves the drinking of potions to make characters act oddly, meaning having a drunk character on stage detracted from the comedic nature of the plot. Furthermore, the Shitfaced company made the rather strange choice to depict Puck as a sex-crazed, innuendo-fuelled character ready and willing to break from the Shakespearean form. By doing so it not only undermined the ever-fantastic presence of compère Lewis Ironside, it also seemed to normalise some of the drunken antics of the designated drunk – in our case being Saul Marron. It also felt that a 7pm timeslot was slightly too early – the audience didn’t seem to have enough time to get the right side of merry for all the frolicking and innuendo.
Shitfaced Shakespeare will always be a fun event, and for first timers will leave your face hurting from all the laughter. For returners don’t always expect something entirely new, but seeing drunken fools on stage simply never gets old. Perhaps next time I see the show I’ll write a shit-faced review!
Stacey Norris- Helena
Beth-Louise Priestley- Hermia
Rob Smythson- Puck
Lewis Ironside- Compere
John Mitton- Demetrius
Saul Marron- Lysander and designated drunk