We’ve all been to productions where Shakespearian actors overact and we have to sit through yet another extravagant “to be or not to be” speech, attempting not to wince. During 'Sh!t-faced Shakespeare', however, this was entirely subverted with the crowd cheering on the speech, the actors interrupting every two seconds and Hamlet himself sighing at the inability to deliver the speech coherently, it was hilarious.
Photo Credit: Rah Petherbridge
The concept of 'Sh!t-faced Shakespeare', is quite simple – every night they take a Shakespearian actor and get them drunk before their performance, whilst also having them drink throughout the show.
The second that the compère appeared on stage the crowd cheered – something alien to Shakespearian theatre; you could immediately feel the incredible buzz that the show created. We were all excited to see who our unlucky actor was for the night, and as Beth-Louise Priestley (Ophelia/Horatia) stumbled on stage the laughter immediately arose. It was so exciting to experience a production where the audience were free to interact with what was happening on stage, and where the fourth wall was broken almost instantly. Some of the most humours parts of the show came from the actors overtly directing the audience, talking about how their partners were sat in the audience – unluckily for our drunken performer, her partner was there that night.
The wonderful chemistry between the actors was undoubtedly what made the show. As you can imagine, having a drunk actor on stage meant there was a lot of improv, and the actors managed to hilariously bounce off each other. One particularly comical recurring joke was between the male actors teasing the female actors with satirical remarks about women’s role within Shakespearean society and our drunken actor repeating that she will “f*ck them up” in the next scenes. The interaction between the actors throughout the show was hilarious and consistently engaging to watch. A particular favourite was Ophelia constantly confessing her love for Hamlet “I just f*cking love you and you’re just ignoring me” making Hamlet perhaps even more relatable for a modern audience, after all, we’ve all drunk shouted “I love you”.
There were some wonderfully slapstick moments that made it almost feel like an adult pantomime. Remember that feeling at Christmas where you couldn’t wait to go to the panto and shout “oh no he didn’t!”, well 'Sh!t faced Shakespeare' gives you that same excitement, just with a drink in hand, instead of an ice cream. Audience participation was taken to the next level as poor “Tim” was pulled on stage fulfilling the role of Polonius, as the actors teased him, staying in character, questioning why Polonius, the chief counsellor of the king, couldn’t council him.
It felt like the audience were a community, a part of the show, something that is perhaps a little lost in some modern day productions of Shakespeare. We always hear about the good old days where generations stood watching Shakespeare at the Globe, beer on stage, the crowd coming together to enjoy theatre, and Sh!t faced Shakespeare felt like one of those special moments. It gets rid of all the rigid rules of theatre and allows us to take a day off from constantly trying to be the most intelligent person in a room filmed with theatre critics. It’s been a long time since I felt carefree and uplifted after a theatre production, normally it’s followed with the teenage existential angst of “wow I like totally get what like Shakespeare meant by to be or not to be”.
'Sh!t Faced Shakespeare' is guaranteed to leave feeling refreshed, excited and ready to buy another pint.
'Sh!t Faced Shakespeare' is on at Leicester Square theatre until the 14th of September and more information can be found about the production here.
Edited by Alexia McDonald, Digital Editor