Shit-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

Shit-faced Shakespeare is one of those things you either love or hate, a bit like Stilton cheese or anchovies. Enjoying it also requires a certain degree of preparation; namely reaching the correct stage of intoxication, where someone else’s drunken stupor seems like the funniest thing in the world.

To be or not to be drunk isn’t the correct question tonight.

Shit-faced Shakespeare, a firm fringe favourite with the younger crowd, has returned to Brighton with their latest production Hamlet. If someone is not familiar with the concept, it consists of classically trained actors performing an abridged Shakespeare play with a different cast member getting loaded before the performance. The result is each time different boozy slapstick comedy and improvised leaps to the wild side of the familiar verse.

Shit-faced Shakespeare has received contradictory reviews with their last productions. While most listing magazines applaud them for originality and a witty comedy, both The Guardian and the Sunday Times gave them last summer just one star for their Much Ado About Nothing, quoting it as the dullest Shakespeare production they have ever seen. I’m afraid I have to go with the highbrows here. Yes, Hamlet had its moments, but as a whole, it wasn’t nearly as funny as I expected it to be.

The evening began with the compère working the whooping and cheering crowd up: “Would you like to know how drunk our actor is?” Apparently they did. The answer was half a litre of gin and two glasses of Prosecco. It became apparent as the actors entered the stage, that the lucky winner tonight was Briony Rawle, playing the double role of Horatio and Ophelia. Subsequently the verbal acrobatics of Ophelia were confined to repeating the word ‘listen’ on top of everyone else speaking. I don’t think she delivered a single full line, which of course was the whole point. I suppose her top moment was the mysterious ‘Hamlet’s willy is not his own’ observation. During the show, she had two extra beers, allegedly she wasn’t drunk enough.

We know why Horatio/Ophelia was so bad, but what was the rest of the cast’s excuse? The delivery was monotonic and dull, and there seemed to be an endless array of pointless movement on the stage. The audience was appropriately drunk, which manifested by half of the audience running to the toilet during the show. Really, the show was an hour long! Even the ending was brushed aside as the cast was in a hurry to get fresh pints down the hatch.

Still, I’m sure the Shit-faced Shakespeare will be performing to sold out crowds for years to come. Perhaps my downfall was inadequate preparation, and I don’t mean my knowledge of the Bard’s verse, but I only had time for two G&Ts before the show. Big mistake. To be or not to be drunk isn’t the correct question tonight. This show comes with a warning: if you’re not pissed enough, you might leave the show pissed off.

Reviews by Johanna Makelainen

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Shit-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet

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The Blurb

Shit-faced Shakespeare® is the genuinely hilarious combination of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely Shit-faced actor. What could possibly go right? With a single genuinely inebriated cast member chosen each night, no two shows are ever the same in this raucous, riotous, rampage through Shakespeare’s greatest work: 'Hamlet'. This multi-award winning, interactive, cult-hit show has already ‘entertained’ over 170,000 audience members across the globe (although never actually inside it). An always remember to enjoy Shakespeare responsibly!