All male, all female; all singing, all dancing; modern, vintage, Marxist, minimalist – Shakespeare’s been done every which way there is. Every way but drunk. Until now.
Members of the immensely talented and only slightly insane Tax Deductible Theatre Company draw straws every day of performance to determine which lucky one among them will be getting dutifully sh*tfaced in preparation for their adoring public. The cast stand to lose lines, dignity and patience as they strive to bring you the majesty of Shakespeare without getting kicked, sicked or slept on by their unfortunate comrade – while he tries to remember where he left his last iambic.
On opening night, the play was Midsummer Night’s Dream and the luckless scapegoat was Lysander – who also happened to be the show’s director. This led to a very poignant and spontaneous soliloquy about how he used to be in control, and a lively discourse with the audience that ran along the lines of ‘fuck you!’ Anecdotes about drunken calamities from previous shows were interspersed, sometimes into other people’s monologues. In the true spirit of the Bard, tragedy and comedy went hand in hand and giggles fell frequently into sobs. Incidentally, if you haven’t seen a stage sword fight where one actor has his weapon confiscated in the interests of health and safety, while his opponent tries simultaneously to fend him off as well as hold him upright, you’ve not seen anything.
The genius of course lies in the idea of competence interrupted. The notion of exceptionally capable actors unable to perform because one of them is utterly plastered is, for some reason, uniquely entertaining. If all the cast was sh*tfaced, it wouldn’t be half so much fun – it’s seeing the sober ones battle against the nonsensical eloquence of a drunk co-star that’s the treat. As is ringing the gong they give the audience to decide when the poor sod needs another drink.
Making a great drinking game of one of the greatest dramatists in history, Sh*t-faced Shakespeare is a raucous riotous rambunctious tour de force: a barrel of laughs, it’s the most fun you can legally have in blank verse. Forget the Globe – this is the Bard at his best. They might be bladdered, but it won’t be wasted.
***** – 5/5 Stars
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare is playing at C at Edinburgh Fringe Festival until 27 August. For more information see the C venues website.