Monday, 22 April 2019

REVIEW: Shit-faced Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew at the Leicester Square Theatre


One bottle of Cherry Lambrini. One bottle of London’s finest Port. And three old fashioned beers for good measure, all consumed by one unlucky actor before the curtain had even opened. Founded in 2012 by Magnificent Bastard Productions, this completely ridiculous and unpredictable production combines the entirely serious works of Shakespeare with an entirely shit-faced cast member. Having already entertained over 350,000 audience members throughout the UK, US and Australia, including multiple sell out seasons at both the Brighton and Edinburgh fringe festivals, Shitfaced Shakespeare is now currently playing the long awaited UK premiere of ‘Taming of the Shrew’ in London’s Leicester Square Theatre. 

Based on his original works, the story follows wealthy siblings Katherina and Bianca, each of whom find themselves pitched against multiple suspicious suitors and each other. However, until the eldest daughter Katherina has found a suitable suitor, sought after Bianca is left in a husbandless limbo. The question is, will Katherina ever find her love? Featuring gender bending, cross dressing, general tomfoolery, and a booze soaked thespian thrown in for good luck, and you have the perfect premise for a hilarious and certainly unique adaptation. 

Still not sure how it works? Each performance one of the seven cast members are carefully selected and tasked with drinking whatever concoctions are thrown at them for four full hours prior to the start of the show. The remainder of the sober cast are tasked with aiding their drunken hero to the end of this Shakespearean marathon. With the original text reduced into the finest seventy minute theatrical cuts, there is no time to spare, and each night guarantees a high-paced and wild race to the finish via a never ending amount of drunken detours. 

And we certainly encountered just that from the get go. With the rules set in place by our compere for the evening (Stacey Norris), it was the turn of Katherina’s suitor Petruchio (Will Seaward) to brave the gauntlet and tackle fine writing through blurred vision. With werewolves and witches curses being thrown into the mix by Seaward, the rest of the cast had no option but to take an unpredicted ghoulish detour to the dark side in order to complete their tale. Credit must be given to the entire company for their ability to improvise and create such strong and natural humour instantaneously throughout the evening, providing plenty of laughs for the audience. 

There’s also some audience participation, with selected audience members from the front two rows being given instruments to bang/blow when they feel the performance is getting somewhat dry, or in simple terms, to get Seaward another drink! A fun addition to the experience, one that worked very well within the intimate rustic atmosphere of the Leicester Square Theatre. 

As an audience, we know exactly why we snapped up a ticket. We’re not there to see refined Shakespeare and ground-breaking acting. Were there to see one unfortunate soul butcher the play, and all the hilarious obstacles that come alongside this. The scenes said actor were in provided guaranteed laughs, and the story moderated in order to accommodate for this, while still making sense. However, while aiding the storyline, the scenes without the drunkard felt somewhat less comical, and as an audience member we couldn’t wait for Seaward to make his next appearance. 

While the production as a whole was certainly entertaining, and contains a layout and concept that I have never witnessed before, as a 7pm slot in London’s West End, at times it felt a little wasted on its audience due to the early time slot. However, as a late night headliner at a fringe festival, there is no doubt that this production would be the perfect way to end a long day, kicking back with several drinks for an hour of light-hearted tomfoolery. 

One thing is for certain, wherever and whenever you see this production (which you definitely should at least once!), the REAL way to enjoy it is to join the poor victim within that evenings cast by getting shit-faced too! 

Review by Adam Tipping

Rating: ★★★

Seat: J24 | Tickets starting at £20.75 (£16.25 concs)
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