How many times can an actor get drunk onstage without becoming unemployable? As one of the longest-serving members of Shit-faced Shakespeare, Saul Marron has lost count – but it hasn’t done his career any harm. While starring as Claudius in Hamlet, he can also currently be seen onscreen in Gentleman Jack and The Current War. We caught up with him about his shit-faced track record. Time to get booking!
A favourite at Leicester Square Theatre for the past four years, Magnificent Bastard Productions are now hamming up Hamlet for a limited run until 14 September 2019.
Think you know Hamlet? The story of a whiny lad who goes a bit loopy and does some stabbings, featuring foul language, outrageous behaviour, terrible singing, rapidly expelled bodily fluids and dangerous swordplay, Shakespeare has long been considered ‘cultural’. Instead, think of it like Game of Thrones with fewer boobs (probably).
How does a Shit-faced show work?
Every night one carefully-selected member of the cast of professionally trained, Shakespearean actors is tasked with drinking for a full four hours prior to showtime. The remainder of the sober cast are tasked with wrangling the drunken hero through a 70-minute adapted script, trying their level best to keep the show ‘on the rails’ while incorporating into the world of the play whatever drunken shenanigans are thrown at them. With the original text reduced to the primest theatrical cuts and no time to spare, every night is a high-energy race to the finish through an ever-changing series of drunken detours.
Talking to… Saul Marron
Saul Marron is one of the longest-serving members of the Shit-faced Shakespeare team. His company credits since 2008 include A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Romeo & Juliet, Measure for Measure, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, Much Ado About Nothing, The Merchant of Venice, The Taming of the Shrew and, currently, Hamlet, in which he plays Claudius.
Beyond Shit-faced, Marron’s credits include Madonna & Me, The Happy Prince and Trace onstage, and Gentleman Jack and The Current War onscreen.
How did you first get involved with Shit-faced Shakespeare?
Lewis Ironside, the director of the company, and I knew each other from drama school. He just approached me one day and asked if I fancied getting a group of actors together and directing the show for his theatre tent. It seemed like a perfect way to spend a festival so I said yes immediately.
What’s been your favourite Shit-faced production?
I tend to favour whichever show we are performing at the time. The characters are new and there’s so much fresh comedy to be found when playing with the story. Outside of that, A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Much Ado are always fun to be in.
Any favourite anecdotes from performing?
Lol, so many. Our current show Hamlet at the Leicester Square Theatre has had incest, time-travelling ghosts and necrophilia and that’s just been in the past week.
What’s the strangest thing you’ve made the cast do when shit-faced?
There was an Edinburgh show back in 2014 where I somehow managed to get several of the audience members up to dance with the cast. This then somehow turned into quite a heated orgy scene!? Some of the audience loved rolling around with us… others were mortified.
Do you prefer performing comedy or drama?
I’m really happy with both. Shitfaced allows me to engage in more improv than other shows and it keeps me on my toes, which is great. But having the chance to be involved with more serious storytelling has its own advantages and challenges.
It says in the Hamlet programme that you were the “first ‘successful’ drunk for the production.” Is there a story that goes with this?
Erm…yeah. Our maiden show was several nights before my first drunk one, with the original actor Ruth Williams. It ended with the paramedics arriving and an urban myth spreading that “one of our actresses had died”. I should note that Ruth is perfectly healthy and is still part of the company to this day.
You’re one of the company’s longest-serving members Do you ever grow tired of what you are doing?
Honestly, never. If someone had told me that I would be performing this much Shakespeare in my career, especially mixed with live improv, I wouldn’t have believed them. No show is the same twice, and as such, it means you’re always striving to make each performance as good as the last. Our cast is unique in that we are friends and trust each other implicitly. We just wouldn’t be able to do what we do each night without knowing that everyone has their back and looking out for them.
Apart from Claudius, would you like to play one of the other characters in Hamlet?
Definitely! Gertrude looks like an amazing role to get stuck into. Plus she has an amazing dress and you get the big death scene at the end.
Who, in your opinion, is the funniest drunk in the company?
All of them. I know that sounds like a copout but honestly, every actor is their own unique drunk and there’s not been a night where I haven’t had to try and stop myself from corpsing. I’ve been lucky enough to work with some of the funniest and most talented actors on this show.
Anything else you’d like to add?
Only that, while Hamlet is on at the Leicester Square Theatre until 14 September, you can catch me in Gentleman Jack (with Suranne Jones) on BBC iplayer and The Current War (with Benedict Cumberbatch) in cinemas right now! #shamelessselfpromotion
Shit-faced Shakespeare: Hamlet runs from 19 June to 14 September 2019 at Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, London WC2H 7BX, with performances (70 minutes) Tuesdays to Saturdays at 7pm. Tickets are priced £16.25-£20.75. CLICK HERE TO PURCHASE!