From the brains that brought you the Shit-faced Shakespeare shows, ever popular at Brighton and Edinburgh Fringe, comes a new drunken offering: Shit-faced Showtime. Just as their work with the Bard, a group of trained, this time musical theatre, actors bring their version of a popular musical to the stage – but one of them is absolutely wasted.
For this run, Magnificent Bastards Productions are retelling the story of Charles Dickens’ beloved orphan, Oliver Twist, in Oliver with a Twist (see what they did there?), courtesy of a revolving cast of five – plus a compere/handler to make sure the drunk actor neither gets too out of hand nor sobers up too much. This job is made all the harder, or easier depending on which way you look at it, by the musical instruments that are handed out to the crowd: a recorder and a xylophone – one-use only harbingers of “one more drink” (learn this chant) for the intoxicated performer.
Due to the inherent nature of drunkenness, no one show is ever the same, least of all because any of the cast could be the Chosen One. On my night, Katy Baker was the chosen one, as a plastered Nancy (with anger issues). It was like no version of Oliver I’d ever seen: Baker’s Nancy reduced the normally menacing Bill Sikes to nothing more than a soggy tissue, afraid of his own dog; swore and cursed all over the place; performed a surprisingly beautiful rendition of ‘I Dreamed a Dream’ (given her circumstance); and ended up stabbing Oliver… with a rubber chicken, all before revealing that she was actually Oliver’s mum.
It was a journey to say the least.
Though there is a general framework of the show, I would assume, much of it ends up being improvised, depending on how off-book the drunk actor strays. I’d imagine Baker’s antics are up there as amongst the most challenging to the original storyline, but I genuinely wouldn’t be surprised if I were wrong.
Taking into account the premise of the show, I can’t imagine anyone would expect a show to put Sondheim to shame. And Shit-faced Showtime definitely doesn’t do that. What is does do, however, is give the audience a heck of a lot of laughs and a sense of unpredictability that fills each evening with possibility. If a version of Oliver exists where Nancy doesn’t die, anything is possible. It is a fantastic preface to a night on the town, if one feels like being slightly more cultured than a visit to your local pub.
Shit-faced Showtime: Oliver with a Twist is playing until 12 April. For more information and tickets, visit the Leicester Square Theatre website.