‘It’s better Sh*tfaced.’ As a Shakespeare fan, I’m not sure I wholeheartedly agree with this statement, but it certainly did make for a very entertaining night at Leicester Square Theatre.
Welcome to the world of Sh!tfaced Shakespeare, where every night a different cast member gets absolutely blotto as an ensemble of professionally trained Shakespearian actors perform a classic. Last night it was the story of two households, who were not so alike in dignity, in fair Verona where we saw our leading lady lay down because she was trolleyed. It was of course William Shakespeare’s timeless love story, Romeo and Juliet.
The brilliant cast of Sh!tfaced Shakespeare is made up of David Ellis, Richard Hughes, Christopher Lane, John Mitton, Stacey Norris, Jessica Brindle and Lucy Farrar. Every night one of the cast will get highly inebriated, which on Thursday 14 July, was Jessica Brindle playing the oh so charming, oh so cockney, oh so plastered, Juliet. The cast take it in turns to be the chosen one and are never required to be the drunk performer for two nights in a row and more than 4 times a month, which they brag, makes them the most sober cast in the West End.
We are welcomed to the show by Lucy Farrar, who’s northern flair, energy and charisma is instantly engaging and entertaining. We find out that Farrar will not only be our compère, but it is her responsibility to ensure the snozzled actor is safe and retains some dignity, which she had to do several times throughout the night. From pulling down her dress, to cleaning up her spilled drinks, to catching her when she fell off her balcony in the iconic ‘wherefore art thou’ scene.
We start off the Shakespearian shenanigans by finding out how much our well-oiled actor has consumed to get her to her current state slowly over 4 hours. Last night, this was one can of BrewDog Punk IPA and half a bottle of vodka…classic pre-session thirst-quenchers for a night out. Then horns, gongs and buttons galore were distributed to the audience that they could bang, press and squeeze at any point through the show to get our actor another drink! Which tallied up to three ciders and a shot.
Throughout the show we were invited to take part and be immersed in this slightly sh!tfaced Shakespearian utopia. Including poor audience member Jacob, who unwillingly played the part of Paris (a character that is normally only referred to in the timeless classic) and had to ask the drunken Juliet for her hand in marriage. From the moment it started, the cast had the audience in the palm of their hands, on board and fully ready for the raucous, ridiculous, riotous performance that was about to take place.
What was so attractive about this show is the skill and dedication from the actors, who clearly are extremely talented. From Norris’ raunchy Catherine Tate’s Nan-esque Nurse, to Ellis’ eccentric somewhat erotic Friar, to Hughes heart-broken Romeo, the entire cast know Shakespeare and how to do it well. The disparity from the tipsy scenes to the tense are what made the show with its brilliant juxtaposition. When Brindle was bumbling on stage trying to remember her lines or taking the scene in a very different and deranged direction, the cast were ready to ad lib, say ‘Yes!’ and their quick wit had the audience in uproar. On the flip side, the fight scene between Mercutio, Tybalt and Romeo was electrifying with gorgeous use of iambic pentameter and commitment to the characters. You felt so much for Hughes’ Romeo, until there was Sweeney Todd style blood spurting out into the audience to remind us, this is still a comedy.
A surprise within the show was the use of Bridgerton style music, taking modern pop songs with a classical twist. It complimented the genre and show so well. Another benefit was it gave the cast the perfect opportunity to show off their dance moves, in some cases, their lack of, which made it even more amusing. The costumes and set were a nod to what you would see in a Shakespeare school tour, very costumey, very traditional and very well suited to the show.
In a typical denouement of a Shakespearian tragedy, you would expect chaos, bloodshed and death, which is what we got, with the extra bonus of comedy thrown in and a very unexpected twist of catastrophe. For never was a story of more woe, than this of a drunken Juliet, and her sober Romeo. All in all, a thoroughly enjoyable night. A lot of laughs, a lot of talent and a lot of booze! If you’re looking for a unique and fun night in the West End, head to the Leicester Square Theatre from now until 10 September 2022 to see this spectacular sh!tfaced ensemble.
And always, ‘Shakespeare responsibly.’
For tickets, visit: shitfacedshakespeare.com
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All imagery courtesy Rah Petherbridge.