Shit-faced Shakespeare - Much Ado About Nothing performed with one actor drunk

This article is from 2013

Measure for measure (change title)

credit: © Magnificent Bastard

Shakespeare after one tankard too many at 2013 Edinburgh Festival Fringe

At first glance, the Shit-faced Shakespeare premise might seem a tad gimmicky. Each night, in an otherwise straight-played Shakespeare production, one actor is required to perform their role drunk, yet somehow it turns out to be an unexpectedly thrilling crossover between theatre and late-night comedy.

Last August, the actors of Tax Deductible Theatre staggered their way through A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to sold-out audiences and near-universal acclaim. This year, Shit-faced Shakespeare returns (under new company Magnificent Bastard Productions and with a Brighton Fringe Best Comedy Show nomination in tow) with a larger cast performing Much Ado About Nothing.

Co-creator and actor Lewis Ironside explains the mechanics: ‘We rotate the cast every night so we never have exactly the same actors playing exactly the same roles with exactly the same drunk. We never know what’s going to happen or what the drunk is going to do, so it never gets boring to perform. My favourite moment was one of our actresses “outing” herself on stage as having recently wet the bed and, Edinburgh accommodation being what it is, also soaking the other actress she was sharing the bed with. She then proceeded to remove her skirt and proudly display to the audience the Tena Lady she had on over her pants to “prevent any onstage accidents”.’

And though they have attracted some criticism for encouraging drunkenness, Ironside is adamant that the chosen boozer is always safe. ‘Our drinker is always well looked after and made to endure the dreaded “water hour” after each show,’ he insists. ‘We don’t in any way advocate drinking to excess and actively encourage our audience to enjoy Shakespeare responsibly. We rotate cast members every night so no performer will be drunk more than four times during the entire run in Edinburgh. Compare that to the booze consumption level of your average Edinburgh performer and we’re practically teetotal.’

Shit-faced Shakespeare, C, 0845 260 1234, 3–26 Aug, 11.20pm, £11.50 (£9.50). Previews 31 Jul–2 Aug, £9.50 (£7.50).

Shit-Faced Shakespeare

  • 3 stars

Shakespeare performed as he would have wanted (perhaps). The play is entirely serious in every respect except that one of the actors is completely shit-faced.