Sh*t-faced Shakespeare – Hamlet – Know it well!

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This production is playing at the Leicester Square Theater until 14th September 2019 (official link).

The Sh*t Faced company advertise themselves as a company who take ‘…the deeply highbrow fusion of an entirely serious Shakespeare play…’ and combine this ‘…with an entirely shit-faced cast member.’ Thus each night a different actor will get drunk before the show and then try to perform their normal role in the production creating the ‘unknown’. This then means that the show can become completely unpredictable, amusing and almost improvised by the cast as the drunken member tries to ‘act’ his correct role. The Company has been running shows since 2010 and (according to their website (company link) ‘…has already entertained over 350,000 eager theatre-goers across the UK, US,, and Australia.’

Despite the fun behind the idea, there is a serious side as they seek to introduce a new generation of theatre-goers to the works of the Shakespeare, using the raucous, interactive and vibrant nature of Elizabethan theatre (a style which we haven’t seen on stage for many years) but combine this with a very modern twist – a drunken member of the act.

For this production, they use their unique style to bring a touch of fun to one of the more complex Shakespearean plays. The production runs for about 70 minutes (without an interval) and contains all the elements that have made the group so popular – claxons, drinks, fluffed lines and hilarious reactions.

I collected my tickets from the lovely man at the box office and made my way into the venue. This performance was taking place in the main house. This is a large area which is downstairs from the box office.

The set is a simple one with a painted Medieval town scene painted on a backdrop with various items bought into a scene such as the thrones or tables. At the start of the production, there is a covered drinks trolley on stage which is revealed at the start of the show by the compere. This is a ritual of the shows and if you have seen them before. or read previous reviews, you will know that the trolley has the drinks on that have been consumed by the cast member. Once the introduction and ‘rules’ have been explained the show begins.

There is a cast of six all work well to provide a humorous and still understandable, Hamlet. As each show features a different drunken cast member, the experience may differ but for my show, Hamlet (Davis Ellis) was drunk and made for a fun, slightly naughtier and interactive performance!

©Rah Petherbridge Photography - Shitfaced live - HAMLET
From left to right – Saul Marron as Claudius, Richard Huges as Laertes, Natalie Boakye as Ophelia and Beth-Loise Priestly as Horatio (photo credit Rah Petherbridge)

Beth-Louise Priestley (playing the Compere/ Host) was excellent. The Hos’s role is to ensure that the proceedings are carried out safely (for all) and that the guidelines of the production – no swearing and use of certain offensive words or throwing things into the audience, for example, are adhered to. This was a Friday night audience who were clearly out to enjoy the show, have a drink and let that be known, so she had her work cut out at controlling them. I have to say I have seen many performances of the Sh*tfaced group and this was one of the toughest Hosts roles I have seen. She managed to calm the crowd when they were chanting ‘Drink. Drink. Drink’ and also manage Hamlet (David Ellis) throwing items into the crowd and when an offensive word was used. Excellent.

Stacey Norris (playing Gertrude) is great as Hamlet’s mother and manages to convey the characters uneasy feelings towards Hamlet (David Ellis) well. She manages to bring a sense of authority to the relationships.

David Ellis (playing Hamlet) was great as the main lead and was clearly intoxicated, making some great fluffs and with the complex script and long monologues, ensuring that fun and fumbling isn’t far away! He has a strong voice and good stage presence that means that the show works well. He managed to bring in some unusual elements to the plot and script and this also made a fun show.

Natalie Boakye (playing Ophelia) is great as the grief-stricken lover of Hamlet. She has a great voice which when combined with the acting skills, portrays the sadness of the character well, even within the chaos of the drunken plot!

Richard Hughes (playing Laertes) is great as Ophelia’s brother and manages to maintain the family tragedy side of the piece amongst the chaos! He has a strong voice and stage presence and this helps focus the proceedings.

Matthew Seager (playing Claudius) is excellent as the brother who torments Hamlet. He has a great stage presence and this is used well in the production to convey the ‘brotherly love’ that exists between the two. I loved the scene where we first see him and Hamlet (David Ellis) on stage and the greeting that ensures – a finger sucking hello!

Overall the piece was fun and one of the best pieces from the group I have seen! Great comic pieces are made by the drunk interaction and this particular Shakespeare play has many moments to allow this to happen!

NOTE: There were several moments which marred my own experience but, this was down to the venue’s management of the drunk behind me and the loud talking drunken couple next to me and NOT the production.

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