Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth is the newest incarnation of the globally successful series from Magnificent Bastard Productions.
The concept is simple: the company put together a (heavily condensed) rendition of one of Shakespeare’s plays – typically the more famous ones, to maximise audience understanding – and one actor of the company gets exceedingly drunk prior to the beginning of the performance. Naturally, chaos follows and the performance must be ‘salvaged’ by the other actors onstage and an Emcee, who is kept very busy ensuring that nothing too dangerous takes place.
It is clear from the outset that this production thrives heavily from audience involvement, everyone on and off stage is sharing in the same unpredictable set-up and so Shit-Faced Shakespeare feels more like an experience than a performance.
The Emcee does a fantastic job of riling up the audience and building anticipation for the evening’s events, and any existing fans of the show will be eager to obtain one of the coveted musical instruments. These one-time-use tools are assigned to willing audience members and provide the drunk performer with another drink should they risk getting too sober. Of course, the performer never ventures remotely near sober and these devices are merely designed to cause further chaos.
While the performer chosen to be drunk is certainly the assigned star of that night’s performance, it is the strength of the company as a whole which is the key to the production’s success. A lot of quick-thinking and polished improvisation skills are required to accommodate the drunk performer’s antics and, impressively, the other actors even manufacture running-jokes and through-lines from the ridiculous ramblings of their cast-mate.
It really is the flexibility of the company which allows for each performance to spotlight the drunk performer. The solely-sober scenes are pretty condensed (though time is always made for particularly iconic moments) which allows the intoxicated character to go off script in their scenes and inevitably delay the sequence of events.
Macbeth proves to be a great vessel for the Shit-Faced Shakespeare treatment, as the funny moments only prove funnier amid the dark and dramatic events of the source material. A sequence which sees the famous imagined dagger comically suspended from a fishing rod is a particular highlight, and it is deliberately campy moments like this which only get better when fuelled by alcohol.
Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth is another sure-fire hit for existing fans and a brilliant introduction for newbies to the series. Whether you are a dedicated theatre fan or just want a night out, if you love to laugh then this show is for you.
Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Macbeth is playing Leicester Square Theatre until 11 September. For more information and tickets, see Leicester Square Theatre’s website.