Shit Faced Shakespeare[author-post-rating] (4/5 stars)

Shit-faced Shakespeare does what it says on the tin. After its debut at the Fringe last year, Magnificent Bastard Productions is back, this year with its unique take on Much Ado About Nothing. It’s refreshing to say the least to see Shakespeare treated with such irreverence – but Magnificent Bastards barrel through the play with such wit and affection that they get away with it.

It’s clear that the late-night audience loved it – I’d bet that a large percentage of the audience were heading towards shit-faced, too, but it made for a lively atmosphere. Each night, the cast of six draw lots, and one of them then drinks heavily before going on stage and attempting to play their part. What makes it funny is that the rest of the classically-trained cast attempt to continue the play around the drunk actor’s ramblings, improvisation and breaking out of character. You have to give yourself over to its lunacy to enjoy it – think of it as pantomime Shakespeare – but if you do, it’s hard to see how you could not have a good time.

Last night, the (un)lucky drunkard was John Sebastian Mitton, playing Benedict. Having had his sword confiscated for health and safety reasons by jovial compere (Saul Marron, on hand to make sure no-one injures themselves), he brandishes his replacement light sabre with such wild abandon that this eventually gets confiscated, too. Improvising madly, while offering an incoherent, knowing and very funny meta-commentary on the acting and direction of the show, Mitton ploughs through the play like a tank. It shouldn’t work, and yet I laughed until I cried and thoroughly enjoyed myself.

It will also, of course, be different every night, so there’s not much point explaining specific instances that were funny last night – although there were many laugh-out-loud moments. It’s also easy to see how other cast members’ inebriation would add to the merriment differently. A consummate ensemble, they riff well off each other and keep the show afloat when Mitton is doing his hilarious best to sink it.

It’s raucous and ridiculous, and definitely not for purists, but Shit-faced Shakespeare  may well be the most fun you have in a theatre this Fringe.

Shit-faced Shakespeare is at C venues until 26 August as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. For more information and tickets, visit the Edinburgh Fringe website.