Shakespeare has been reworked and modernised continuously but even Shakespeare himself would have been impressed with this particularly drunken performance. The first thing you have to know about this production is the rules. One of the six cast members gets drunk before the show even begins and then makes an attempt at performing one of the Bard’s wonderful plays. Just to explain how bombed the actor is, tonight’s ‘cocktail’ included two beers and two thirds of a bottle of rum – that is before a few audience members added some extra beers into his system.
The show is timed but, as you can probably imagine, this cannot guarantee anything. When one cast member is trying to perform drunk you can expect forgotten lines, easy distractions and of course a lot of breaking character to give the audience subtext – although Shakespeare did love his ‘asides’. No need to worry if you are unfamiliar with the chosen play, your drunken Shakespeare expert is bound to talk you through it.
The chosen play is performed in seriousness, as though it is about to go on at the Globe. However, even the most serious of the plays is performed with better comedy and many more laughs than any Shakespeare comedy would receive. It certainly does not take very long to figure out which cast member is ‘Sh*t-Faced’ from the blissful smile on his face and the slightly unsteady dancing. Without revealing too much, the plastered individual does not always need to be on stage to crack the audience up.
It’s hard to know what is more impressive, a drunken actor articulating Shakespeare’s very wordy play or the rest of the cast’s quick thinking improvisation in response to unexpected incidents. The rest of the cast expertly integrate their sloshed cast-mate’s random rants and make them suit the storyline.
You may never see something funnier than a drunken Proteus, from The Two Gentleman of Verona, duel an angry (and sober) Valentine with an inflatable crocodile – because you can’t give the drunk guy a sharp object. Indeed, watching a duel where one of the participants is drunk is incredibly funny.
It’s amazing how deep an analysis an actor can give you on the works of Shakespeare whilst completely smashed. From the stage directions and the usually needed scene explanation to the critiquing of Shakespearean language and misogyny, this is the Shakespeare lesson you never got in school.
In any other show, this kind of behaviour would be unprofessional but when planned this well it’s just so clever – genius even. This is the kind of show that will have you laughing until you can no longer breathe. Raise your (preferably alcoholic) glass to Sh*t Faced Shakespeare!
Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare is playing at Udderbelly until 13 May. For tickets and more information, see the Udderbelly website.