Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare - Comedy Review

'The Two Gentlemen of Verona' as you've never seen it before. 'Shit-Faced Shakespeare' is precisely that - Shakespeare performed 'shit-faced'. One of the cast will be drunk and must remain so during the performance. Our host for the evening lays down the rules for the event and enlists members of the audience who must bang a drum or blow a horn if they notice the actor sobering up. A woman is selected to blow the horn. Inevitably, she is asked if she'd like to "get her lips round" his trumpet. My heart sinks a little. It's going to be that kind of show.

'The Two Gentlemen of Verona', a story of cross dressing, mistaken identity and love, starts with four actors dancing, one of whom is obviously drunk. He plays Proteus. He has a happy drunken face and tells the audience off for interrupting. It is funny seeing him drunk but I also feel a little concerned for him. Apparently the cast take it in turns to be the 'drunk one'.

It was good to see Shakespeare played with a gender equal cast. Julia tells of her love for Proteus to her maid Lucetta. Lucetta has quite a big part in this story and enlists the help of her 'dog' from the audience, sitting on his lap and asking him to bark on stage. Proteus is sent to Milan and Julia disguises herself as a pageboy to follow him. And so it continues.

What if this show encourages binge drinking? It seemed to help the audience's enjoyment to be equally lubricated. At times I got the feeling I was watching something similar to "You've been Framed"- laughing at someone's misfortune. Would the joke wear thin?

There was funny stuff offstage and funny rude stuff onstage such as the Duke's 'thingy' and Julia (as Sebastian's) 'thingy'. It started to look like Blackadder II 'Beer' does Shakespeare. Which isn't such a bad thing for an amusing take on the classics.

(c) Wendy Thomson 2015
reviewed Saturday 18th July at South Street Arts Centre, Reading

Author's review: