at C Venue, Sunday 12th August 2012
*Written for www.stagewon.co.uk. Published at: http://stagewon.co.uk/news/view/festival-Sh*tfaced-Shakespeare/*
Performing Shakespeare is a tough job. Speaking archaic language rhythmically with true motivation is not easy at the best of times, so imagine doing that drunk. This is exactly the premise behind Shitfaced Shakespeare, which is little else than five actors performing the lovers scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream (and a few Puck speeches). But one of them is completely bladdered/blottoed/crunk (delete as preferred).
And here’s the thing: the show itself is actually quite good, even beyond the determination of the performer in question to ruin it. Some strong visual gags (especially from Puck) and believable relationships make the underlying production pretty good. These clear visual signifiers have clearly been inserted so the drunkard can play off them in their bleary-eyed state, and pay off wonderfully.
There’s little point going into too much detail about the antics of the performance itself, seeing as a different actor drinks each time and every night will be very different, but the general mood is one of complete, joyful anarchy. To take such a revered playwright and make some of his most famous scenes farcical takes courage, and it reminds us not to worship any artist unequivocally, no matter how great their work.
What also strikes me is just how well these actors must know the play in order to recite it when drunk without too much of a hitch (and steal the lines of others at times). To be that drunk and that witty requires extraordinary intelligence, for some of the motions of the play must be semi-habitual. The troupe’s hard work pays off, as they cover, improvise and cut-in when necessary and support the shitfaced actor in question to create an evening of Shakespeare unlike any you’ve ever seen.