It’s probably sacrilegious for an English and Drama teacher to say this, but in my opinion, a Shakespeare production that takes itself too seriously can be a bore. Anyone who knows old mate Will knows he was primarily concerned with making his audiences laugh (he wrote more comedies than any other genre, and even his tragedies had iconic comedic moments). In this respect, it’s fair to say that UK theatre company Shit-Faced Shakespeare know the Bard backwards, and prove this in their liquor-fuelled, laughter-inducing production of the tragedy-turned-comedy Romeo and Juliet.
The premise of Shit-Faced Shakespeare is pretty straightforward. There are 6 classically-trained actors in the troupe that perform the ‘serious’ Shakespearean play in their set roles every night. And every night, one of the actors is selected to get shit-faced before/for the performance, subsequently plied with alcohol, and shoved onstage. The remaining sober players then must try to ‘seriously’ perform the show as best they can with a plastered cast member, who is seemingly given free reign to do practically whatever they see fit in their inebriated state. To make matters more manic, a number of audience members are armed with instruments to dictate when the smashed actor must be given more grog, which they continue to pour down their gob as they perform. As you can imagine, these ingredients altogether are a recipe for delicious madness.
On this particular review evening, the chosen actor was the one playing the titular lead of Juliet. From the minute she stumbled onstage, laughing at herself as she did, the audience were immediately amused, and too, intoxicated by her. As she went about her classic drunken antics for the next hour, including screaming, swearing, throwing and stealing drinks, jumping on and kissing fellow cast members, pulling up audience members to the stage, rolling around on the floor (or as she called it dancing), and breaking character more times than could be counted, the five other actors adapted admirably to the countless curveballs she threw at them, speaking to their great improv skills developed from years of experience. The cast member who acted as an MC/stage manager of sorts was laudable for her energy, humour and patience in the situation, being absolute #goals for all us audience members who has ever had to babysit their drunk friend – it was all too familiar a scene watching her keep the intoxicated actor from doing anything too regrettable.
As stated at the start of this review, a Shakespeare production that takes itself too seriously can be a bore. The fairly elaborate and realistic Elizabethan set, costuming, and prop swords that set the scene made me fear this show was going to be one of those productions, but it turns out my fears were gladly misguided. This unique comedic take on the classic tragedy is a breath of fresh air amidst many stuffy “stick to the script” stage productions still in circulation. By no means does this show stick to the original script – it hardly sticks to the original plot given the state of things, but not knowing how this well-known story would end was one of the best parts about it. And even if you don’t know the full detailed storyline of the star-crossed lovers – hell, even if you don’t know or even like Shakespeare – you are guaranteed to enjoy this show. And whether you do or don’t love it one night, you should definitely come back the next – there’s a new performer getting pissed and getting up to new shenanigans each night, so it’s a new show each night.
It’s easy to see how Shit-Faced Shakespeare has received rave reviews and many awards, and sold out entire runs across the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringes over the years; thank the bloody Bard himself this production has finally made it to Aussie shores! Go and see it before the run ends, or there will never be a story of more woe, than of you not seeing this shit-faced show.
WHERE: The Cornucopia at Gluttony
WHEN: 6th - 18th March at 9:30pm
DURATION: 60 mins
HOW MUCH: $26.92-$34.90
For more info, or to book your tickets, click this link!
Header image via Adelaide Fringe website