In my last blog post I wrote about the inevitable and recurrent meltdowns that actors should expect from time to time, when they’ve not had any work for so long that Equity have tried to find out if they’re dead so that they can give their stage name to someone else. It’s a dark time, full of frustration, self-doubt, bar work, comfort Maltesers, insecurity both emotional and financial, crying and Come Dine With Me.
So four days after that last blog post went up, I landed an acting job I’ve been desperate to do for a year-and-a-half. And I think the message here is clear: if you’re in an acting rut, thinking of packing it all in, weeping afresh because you’re still unemployable even as a non-actor, just whinge about it on the internet, and the infinite beings who contemptuously tug the strings of this silly little world will read your blog, quickly put down their Bovril with a guilty hiccup, and give you some lovely work. About time too.
I’m doing a show called Shit-faced Shakespeare, which involves six classically trained actors putting on a Shakespeare play at the Edinburgh Fringe, and getting one cast member disastrously trashed right before each show. That member of the cast is then let loose on the play with carte blanche to do whatever they fancy. If this happens to be attempting to give the performance of their lives, all the better, but more often it involves things like making indiscriminate animal noises, bumming fags off audience members, and sitting down in the middle of someone else’s scene. It is up to the rest of the cast to improvise around the decisions of the drunk, in order to keep the thing just about pegged up.
We don’t rehearse drunk, so for us new members of the company our first drunk shows will truly be a completely new experience. I can’t think of any other context in which an actor would be able to perform drunk in front of an audience unless they were resolved never to work again. The existing company members inform me that drunkenness combined with pre-show nerves and the adrenaline rush of live performance is a different kind of drunkenness than could be achieved any other way.
Perhaps it’s a frivolous gimmick, but it’ll be a unique experience, and it’s also another brilliant way to freshen up Shakespeare. I think he’d have liked it. In fact, he probably did his own version of Shit-faced Shakespeare. But he just called it ‘acting’.
Shit-faced Shakespeare’s London previews are at Swan Wharf near Hackney Wick 18-20 July. For more information and tickets click here. The show will then run at the Underbelly, Bristo Square, at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 30 July til 25 August.
Photo from Shit-faced Shakespeare 2012. (c) Rah Petherbridge.