Staples of The Warren and Brighton Fringe, the award-winning Shit-Faced Shakespeare crew are back on the beach and ready to fill their bellies full of booze and the air full of laughter. We caught the opening night of their week-long run of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ at the Oil Shed. This is as funny as Shakespeare gets.
“Please remember to enjoy Shakespeare responsibly!”
Before delving into the details, here is a quick rundown of how Shit-Faced Shakespeare works: take a group of thespians, a Shakespeare classic and add a big ol’ bucket of beer, wine or your alcoholic beverage of choice (or a nice mixture of all of the above). Get one of those actors plastered enough that they wouldn’t be out of place at a Fresher’s house-party and provide a few audience members with the power to make a one-off “ANOTHER ROUND!” demand. Sit back and let the chaos ensue, all the while laughing so much it becomes hard to breathe.
The show starts with the gist of things being explained by compere Maryam Grace, who then reveals the amount the chosen drunk has already consumed: a bottle of prosecco, two bottles of craft beer and a fruity cider. No qualms about mixing drinks here! Launching into the meat of the play, the plot of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ quickly becomes almost meaningless amongst the madness and hilarity – the real story at work here is about a load of actors trying to corral their inebriated colleague along, at best, some vague semblance of a narrative thread. This is no criticism; it is clear how well these actors know their subject matter given their ability to drag the drunk kicking and screaming back to the source material.
Shakespeared, Not Stirred
There can be no spoilers here, the performance of ‘Much Ado About Nothing’ that we witnessed will never be repeated in the same way. The drunk of the night is Lucy Farrar as Beatrice who delivers a stellar performance; it felt as if I were watching one of my more rowdy friends trying to act sober in front of their family. All my favourite moments, though, were born out of the other actors’ interactions with Lucy. Running jokes were crafted from explicit comments and it genuinely looked like everyone on stage was having as much fun as the audience were. The play became oddly heart-warming, especially during the times that Beth-Louise Priestly (playing Hero and directing this performance) got caught off guard by some particularly lewd comment and couldn’t contain a grin. Despite some technical issues with the microphones, the whole performance carried wonderfully.
Having a drunk cast member almost became beneficial to the audience. Everything was so funny, so caught up in a gale of laughter, that having a central character stop and ask: “Wait, what is going on?” not only helped to thicken the drunken haze but also recentre the plot whenever things were getting out of hand. Aside from the drunkenness, and interactions based around that, memorable moments include an epically choreographed swordfight, a dance scene (the drunk dancing was awesome) and a running joke about water sports.
As soon as I walked out of The Warren I was thinking about coming again the following evening to see how the next performance would differ. Admittedly a little sadistically, I wanted to see whether Lucy would be in the play the next day and how that hangover was carried. Watching Shit-Faced Shakespeare would never get old, each time will be different, and each time will be hilarious. Maybe don’t bring your kids, though.
A brilliantly funny, light-hearted romp, Shit-Faced Shakespeare have taken The Immortal Bard to his logical conclusion. The inclusion of one wasted actor amplifies any salaciousness, any humour and any absurdity to the nth degree, while also bringing about some surprisingly human moments.
Shit-Faced Shakespeare have more performances throughout the rest of the year, taking their version of Romeo and Juliet around the country. The first of these is at The Haymarket in Basingstoke on the 30th of September, followed by The Shanklin Theatre on the Isle of Wight on the 8th of October. Head to www.shitfacedshakespeare.com/home for further dates.
Cast List for 23rd August:
Benedick- Joshua Diffley
Beatrice – Lucy Farrar
Don John – Rob Smythson
Leonato – Saul Marron
Hero – Beth-Louise Priestley
Claudio – David Ellis
Compere – Maryam Grace
Sword Fights- Robbie Capaldi
Set – Nicola Jones
Costume – Lorna Jean Costumes
Director – Beth-Louise Priestley
Photographer – Rah Petherbridge