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Show type: Edinburgh Fringe 2012
An entirely serious Shakespeare play ... with an entirely sh*t-faced actor. The legendary Tax Deductible Theatre stagger back to the Fringe with the most raucous Shakespearean performance you'll ever witness!
Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Fringe 2012
O God, that men should put an enemy in their mouths to steal away their brains! That we should, with joy, pleasance, revel, and applause, transform ourselves into beasts!
That chap could be on to something…
This is recklessly irresponsible, a desecration of a centuries-old classic, and a potential car-crash of entertainment. Shit-Faced Shakespeare – based on the simple idea that one cast member of a slimmed-down Midsummer Night’s Dream gets trollied before the show – absolutely belongs on the Fringe.
Tonight it’s Lewis Ironside, playing the role of Lysander after downing two cans of beer, and two-thirds of a bottle of off-brand whisky. There’s also provision for him to top up during the show – two audience members are given the means to force him to take another swig (just one each) at a time of their choosing.
The play starts with a little dance – to a string version of The Cure’s Love Cats, oddly enough – just to demonstrate his lack of co-ordination compared to the others. But it’s when the dialogue starts, Ironside gets into his own.
He’s a very theatrical drunk, full of big daft gestures, good-natured heckles and merry praise to his thespian colleagues. He forgets his lines, garbles others, breaks off from the Bard’s words to chat with his friends or address the audience. It’s a bit too exaggerated, so there’s some initial suspicion that he’s just acting being pissed, rather than acting while pissed.
Most likely he is actually drunk, but also directed to ham it up for the sake of hilarity… and that certainly works. The fact he causes his fellow players to corpse suggests that many of his actions, deviations – and occasional revelation of a secret from their shared digs – comes as news to them.
This isn’t sophisticated, but there is something so deeply ingrained from our prehistoric past that seeing someone struggle wit their dignity while drunk is hilarious. And this is a loud, boisterous and funny show – certainly funnier than Arthur Smith’s foray into pissed-up chat shows last year. Perhaps because Ironside never quite quits, determined to try to play his part and see the light romance through to the very end, despite being heavily handicapped by the booze.
The joke wears a little thin over the hour, as Ironside falls into the same patterns of woozy misbehaviour while the forest fairies play their games with him and the other the Athenian lovers – but it’s all roustabout fun.
Beth Louise Priestley provides a sober core, stoically ignoring the chaos as Hermia (‘she is very good’ Ironside offers on more than one occasion) while Stacey Norris as Helena bears the brunt of his clumsy physicality. John Sebastian, as Demetrius tries to hold it all together while he can, for tomorrow it is his turn to hit the bottle. Finally Andy McSorley adds to the fun by playing Puck as the stereotypical cheeky Northern club comic, adding more knockabout lines into the mix.
You could claim this sort of raucous performance might be closer to how the plays were presented in Shakespeare’s time, amid the hurly-burly of the Globe rather than the deference with which we treat them today. Though that might be reading too much in to what is essentially just a silly idea.
|Date of live review: Tuesday 7th Aug, '12|
Review by Steve Bennett
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