For once this was a play that did what it said in the title. Shit-Faced Shakespeare was an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely shit-faced actor. For the Bank Holiday Friday audience, Much Ado About Nothing was performed with the unusual exception: Beatrice (Stacey Norris) was completely hammered.
A simple enough premise which would seem to promise hilarious results – a drunk actor with the other actors improvising and continuing to perform as best they could. What Shakespeare comedy would not be enlivened by an inebriated actress on stage? Whilst there were plenty of laughs from drunken silliness, this production sometimes seemed to be a bit too reliant on a drunken Friday night audience for easy laughs and their one shit-faced actor to carry this show.
Drunken Norris provided most of the jokes, which is to be expected, with innuendos, coming out of character and dragging audience members up on stage. In particular her love scenes caused much hilarity with her inability to take Benedick’s romantic pleas seriously, instead merely licking him all over the face. Norris’s digs at the director, Lewis Ironside, for notes she clearly disagreed with also provides some amusing critique for Ironside to duly squirm under.
The play continued around Norris’s antics with characters having to contend with unexpected flailing limbs, unanticipated lines and much more explicit sexual references than normal. The enthusiastic compere greatly helped to rally the audience by giving out more alcohol at audience member’s request from a gong. Her sequinned presence guided the show and her opening rally set the audience up for the pantomime style performance that was to follow.
However, Shit Faced Shakespeare sometimes lost momentum with a lack of consistency from the other performers’ reactions to these unforeseen drunken antics. On occasion it appeared that the more sober actors on stage were a tad dependent on the audience being in a similar state to Norris so as not to pay too much attention to their own performances.
Magnificent Bastard Productions has a successful formula at work here for a late night show, especially in a Fringe arena. Its unique take on Much Ado About Nothing supplied innuendo and laughs in the beautiful pop up venue of The Warren. Yet, to make this into a truly riotous comedy performance there needs to be less dependence on the one drunken actor providing all the laughs.
Shit Faced Shakespeare played as part of the Brighton Fringe.