Sunday, 16 April 2017

REVIEW: Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing at Leicester Square Theatre

If you still remember with a certain nostalgia the excitement you had as a kid when attending a pantomime and that sense of participation that gave you the thrills, then you shouldn't miss Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare. Treading the boards since 2010, this close-knit group of friends and professional Shakespearian actors is now at the Leicester Square Theatre for its very own take on Much Ado About Nothing. 

The concept is simple: all performers have rehearsed an abridged version of the play but one of characters – chosen in turns – has been drinking for four hours before the show and appears on stage, as they like to put it, completely sh*t-faced. Two audience members are given a bugle horn and a gong to stop the performance when they reckon the drunk actor is getting too sober and needs a top-up, whereas a third one is in charge of a large bucket (no explanation needed there). The outcome is quite unpredictable and the audience is free to hiss at the villain, make loud comments and cheer uproariously during this 90-minute pantomime for over-18s.

What was probably born as a drunken joke amongst mates has now become an international success and Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare has a proper crowd of followers to support their productions. The company retains part of its initial core of cast and creatives, which operates independently and relies on social media and word-of-mouth to promote their shows. The Magnificent Bastards producers assure that the whole process is safe, sensible and absolutely fun for the actors, who are never asked to drink more than three times in a month nor on consecutive nights.

This is the perfect show to watch if you need to let your hair down or if you're planning a group night out but, by all means, do not attend with someone who can be easily offended by swearing and misbehaving drunken actors let loose on stage. Also, you might want to avoid the first row if you're too shy to interact with the performers and, occasionally, become an impromptu extra in the play.

Set and lighting are kept to a minimum, whereas some strings adaptations of
modern songs, like Lady Gaga's Just Dance, add to the comedy factor of this exhilarating pastiche. Despite the cast's professional training, the authentic Shakespearean costumes and Elizabethan language, you won't be remembering this production of Much Ado About Nothing for its classic theatrical values but rather for the endless opportunities that The Bard has opened to original and entertaining parodies of his works.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★
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