“So it’s Shakespeare, right, but one of the actors is completely shit-faced and, like, can literally do anything!” They said to the E4 commissioner. “No, I’m afraid that’s too high brow for our audience – why don’t you take it somewhere people will appreciate it. Like the Edinburgh Fringe?”
Late in the evening, as actors who are tired from a whole day of being in a show start the arduous process of getting drunk, and they gather on astroturf under an inflatable, upside-down purple cow, the swell around the Underbelly bars reaches its peak. Everyone is a bit tired, they want guaranteed entertainment and that’s what Shit-Faced Shakespeare is. There is nothing unexpected here – the drunk actor makes up his lines, misses his cues, anarchises the whole performance. The other cast members are professional Shakespearean actors, and they ad lib or improvise as necessary to fill in gaps in the lines.
The play is Two Gentlemen Of Verona, tonight John Mitton is shit-faced and, presumably because of the close physical resemblance, he pretends to be Russell Brand. He is very good at it. Mitton prolongs scenes, refuses to leave stage and mutters into his live mic when he’s meant to be silent. He is wearing Crocs, clutching an e-cigarette while everyone else is dressed in ruffs and jerkins. “God, this isn’t a show,” he sighs with exasperation.
Even if you wanted to hate it, even if your cynical mind is telling you that it’s nothing but a gimmick, bait for the inevitably inebriated evening punters, even then it is difficult not to find it very funny. Sir Valentine, Mitton’s character, is not in every scene so there is actually quite a lot of non-shit-faced Shakespeare too, but it’s only an hour so don’t let that put you off.
Magnificent Bastard Productions is not doing too badly. Shit-Faced Shakespeare is growing a following, it’s achieving sell-out shows. It is a guaranteed late night crowd pleaser and it is great – particularly good if you’ve had a couple of drinks yourself. There is nothing amazing about it, but it sets out to entertain and it does. Well done, gimmickry, you win.
Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare is at Underbelly Bristo Square (Venue 300) until 25 August. For more information and tickets visit the EdFringe website.