Leicester Square Theatre – until 2 June 2018
Guest reviewer: Emily Schofield
Actors being completely inebriated is probably not what you expect when you go to see a Shakespeare play. However, Shitfaced Shakespeare’s production of The Merchant of Venice is entirely just that.
With an atmosphere that begins almost like a stand-up comedy show, this production is hysterical from start to finish, as you watch an intoxicated actor, and their sober peers, stumble through a heavily-abridged 70-minute version of the classic play.
Despite obviously having a script, with classically acted scenes being interrupted by a drunken Jessica, the true magic of this show relies on its improvisation element, which is entirely orchestrated by the drunk member of the cast, and is superbly dealt with. Even when a supposedly slurring “soothsayer” gave a massive spoiler to the audience just 15 minutes into the show, the rest of the cast does an excellent job of keeping the audience on track with the ever-changing plot line.
The comedy of the show never falters throughout and the atmosphere that the production creates is a welcoming and enjoyable space, where everyone seems to feel relaxed and settled. However, there is the occasional concern for the wellbeing of the drunken actress, who at one point was hanging out of a window with two cast mates struggling to carry her into a wooden boat.
The entire cast of this production were superb. Navigating every drunken mishap that they were faced with, with humour and dignity, trying their best to keep the show on track as much as possible. However there were points where I was incredibly worried about the safety of the intoxicated actress, she seemed fine on the whole, but it only took a back being turned for thirty seconds before she had managed to climb down from the stage and run to the back of the theatre before the other actors were able to catch a hold of her!
My biggest criticism would be that, if you were unfamiliar with the story of the Merchant of Venice, you probably wouldn’t have been much wiser as to the true story after seeing this show. Drunken improvisation and creative licensing meant that the majority of the show was reduced so much that I struggled to follow along at times, despite being very familiar with the story!
Regardless of this, the experience of witnessing this play made up for whatever it lacked in story or common sense. The appeal of it’s unpredictable nature made it incredibly funny and I was reluctant for it to end when the evening drew to a close.
It’s impossible to know what William Shakespeare himself would have thought of the production, but as someone who greatly appreciates a good laugh – I thought it was a wonderful night out, and perfect for anyone who enjoys both classical theatre combined with a considerable amount of alcohol!