With success in the likes of Shitfaced Shakespeare and Shitfaced Showtime, Magnificent Bastard Productions return to the Fringe with their take on Lionel Bart’s 1960 musical. With a smorgasbord of pop-culture references, and with audience engagement to the nth degree, the performance – never the same as the previous night due to an ever-changing rota on who is scheduled to perform the drunk's role – is earmarked as an inebriated triumph.
Essentially, Shit-Faced Showtime is a show pockmarked with impromptu jokes and moments of hilarity revolving around one individual
At the beginning the host and orator procures four relics, each one vested with their own unique power and given to a different audience member: the ‘Recorder of Disorder’ and the ‘Glock of Bad Memories’, both saved in case the owner believes the drunk is getting too away with it, followed by the less than artistic ‘Vomit Bucket’, burdened to one audience member in the front row’s splash zone. The host wields the ‘Horn of Last Resort’, reserved for only extreme cases of inebriation where there is a potential risk to audience or cast. The host pours the soon-to-be-shitfaced Tom Tilley a glass of beer (much to the chagrin of Tilley, who confesses he despises beer) and the show is underway with its first number Oliver!.
There is a distinct lull in the middle of the show, where the tipsy antics wear off quickly, and it is not until Tilley gets progressively more intoxicated that the show picks up. One is consistently aware that the act relies solely on one person’s drunken antics that invariably weakens the output of the other performers. Perhaps this is why Jessica Hern’s solo of I Dreamed a Dream was included, though what relevance this has to Oliver! or the act at hand remains questionable. It was a very pretty rendition, but nonetheless very out of place given that the stage is drenched with spilled beer whilst the ‘Vomit Bucket’ remains in clear view.
Essentially, Shit-Faced Showtime: Oliver – With a Twist is a show pockmarked with impromptu jokes and moments of hilarity revolving around one individual, but suffers indefinitely in their absence, where the lack of a replacement drunk or comic relief equivalent leaves the rest of the show to coast on through uncertain waters.
But to say that one person stole the show (literally, he holds it at gunpoint) would not do justice to the remaining five performers who adapted well in an unpredictable environment and performed with strong enthusiasm. And the title pretty much spells out the events in store: a surreal night of chancing, boozy laughs delivered with a cockney accent.