Shit-Faced Shakespeare

The Edinburgh Fringe ‘smashed’-hit Shit-Faced Shakespeare returns in its seventh year to perform Measure for Measure in its unorthodox and unique inebriated manner. You might think that this “problem play” about nuns, corruption and threatened rape is already contentious enough without getting a member of the cast utterly plastered. Surprisingly however, this year’s production works well, despite its serious themes. The highly controversial plot is changed, re-empowering the trainee nun Isabella. This is a bold choice, turning a very problematic ending into a more comedic and resolved one, but makes sense considering the light-heartedness of the company’s nature.

The production itself was as silly as Measure for Measure can get: ridiculous codpieces, Sia and Lady Gaga music performed in a period style (a nice touch), a belligerent and potty-mouthed Juliet…

Every evening, one member of the cast is well oiled with a high dosage of alcohol. A compere, or as they should probably be called, ‘chaperone’, ensures that the inebriate behaves themselves. Two members of the audience are given the power of adding to the actor’s smashed-ness, by being given a bugle or a cowbell to sound when the risk of sobriety presented itself. The actor will then be refueled with a beverage on stage, and the mayhem resumes. The other actors then attempt to carry on with the play, improvising around the drunkard as much as possible when lines are missed, blockings are confused and character is broken.

This evening, the character unfortunate enough to be drunk on stage was joker and gentleman-bawd Lucio (Stacey Norris). In a way, it seemed something of a lost opportunity that the drunk character was the one who is supposed to be silly and big-mouthed in the first place; wouldn’t a noddy-headed nun or a disorderly duke be much more rewarding? In spite of this, Lucio managed to do a fine job of disrupting the performance, rushing through lines, frequently breaking character to berate or embrace her fellow actors, and running up to audience members, only to be held back by her babysitter/compare before any major damage was done.

The production itself was as silly as Measure for Measure can get: ridiculous codpieces, Sia and Lady Gaga music performed in a period style (a nice touch), a belligerent and potty-mouthed Juliet… The performance certainly lacks gravitas, but the emphasis is certainly more on the “Shit-faced” than the “Shakespeare”. The novelty of watching one character does wear off after about 20 minutes, but as a late night show to go and see with the lads or the gals, Shit-Faced Shakespeare is hard to beat. Whatever you do however, don’t even think about bringing the kids.

Reviews by Fiona Russell

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Since you’re here…

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The Blurb

The smash-hit, internationally acclaimed, award-winning, multi sell-out fringe phenomenon is back with a new show for 2016: Measure for Measure. Shit-faced Shakespeare is the hilarious combination of an entirely serious adaptation of a Shakespearian classic with a single, entirely shit-faced cast member. With one cast member selected at random and given four hours to drink before every show we present to you classical theatre as it was always meant to be seen. With a gin in one hand, a cup of wine in the other and a flagon of ale in the other... What could go wrong?

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