Shit-Faced Shakespeare

In Macbeth, Act II, Scene 3, the Porter states “Drink [...] is a great provoker of three things...nose painting, sleep and urine”. When it comes to Magnificent Bastard Productions, however, drink provokes a fourth thing - a fantastic night out.

Shakespeare is art; in this production, hilarious, unpredictable art, wonderfully capturing the raucous nature of the theatre of Shakespeare’s day.

The premise is simple, but highly effective; there are five classically trained actors, one of whom is drunk, attempting to perform their pared-down version of a Shakespeare play; in this case, The Merchant of Venice. Some members of the audience are given instruments, which they can use during the play to tell the drunk actor to have another drink, while the member of the company who explains this and attempts to control the action wields the Horn of Last Resort; if anything illegal or dangerous happens, this will be sounded to stop the show. These frivolities aside, one unlucky audience member had the task of holding a bucket...just in case.

Even if you have no idea what the play is about, there is something inherently funny about a man in velvet robes with an elaborate feathered hat stumbling about and trying to speak in iambic pentameter, albeit with a few more swear words than Shakespeare originally wrote. That being said, Antonio was good enough to address the audience and clarify plot points, explain jokes and even define complicated words or turns of phrase, prompting a great deal of confusion from his fellow actors. “Who do you speak to, my lord?” asked Bassanio. “The...pigeons?” Antonio replied, hopefully. “Yes, indeed my lord, there are a great number of pigeons in this Venetian courtyard,” came the response, to great applause. As well as this, Antonio condemned Shakespeare’s anti-Semitism, and even gave some insights into the text, saying in reference to Bassanio, “In Shakespeare’s version, we’re a bit gay”!

The other actors coped admirably with their drunken cast mate’s antics, especially poor Bassanio who bore the brunt of it. From Antonio clambering on him to running onstage and telling him which casket to choose to win Portia’s hand, saying they had no time for his big speech, he rarely faltered. Shylock also had a difficult time, mostly by virtue of his character, but when Antonio encouraged the audience to give him a round of applause after his last line it was a lovely moment. The choosing of the caskets scene itself was cleverly done, with suitors being brought in from the audience – although when the first suitor chose the right casket, we were hastily and loudly informed he had, in fact, picked a different one.

Speaking of yelling, the highlight of my evening had to be Antonio shouting at the fireworks from the Military Tattoo; “Shut up! I’ve got Shakespeare to deliver! It’s art!” I would have to agree with him there, Shakespeare is art; in this production, hilarious, unpredictable art, wonderfully capturing the raucous nature of the theatre of Shakespeare’s day. Iago states that “Good wine is a good familiar creature, if it be well used” (Othello, Act II, Scene 3); replace wine with several cans of Tennants and half a bottle of Jack Daniels and you could definitely say it was well used, to deliver a fantastic show.

Reviews by Catriona Scott

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £600,000 to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

Location

The Blurb

Shit-Faced Shakespeare by the legendary Magnificent Bastard Productions is the hilarious combination of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely shit-faced cast member. Side-splitting, raucous and completely interactive, the show has already entertained over 35,000 eager theatre goers across the UK and America. Having successfully completed multiple sell-out runs at the Edinburgh and Brighton Fringe festivals, Shit-Faced Shakespeare is back with an all new show for 2015... The Merchant of Venice! 'Genuinely hilarious' (Guardian). 'The funniest show at the Fringe' (Daily Star). 'Very rock'n'roll' (Times).

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