Skip to content


Shit-Faced Shakespeare
Published on Wednesday, 08 May 2013

Promotional Image

4 stars

The Warren (venue website)
4 May, 7:30pm-8:30pm; 5-10 May, 9:00pm-10:00pm
Reviewed by Darren Taffinder

 Warning: Contains strong language.
 Suitable for age 16+ only.

This review contains language and themes which some readers may find offensive.

I’m writing this review with a slight hang-over after a few drinks last night. But I won’t be as hung-over as Louise Lee, who was the lucky (or unlucky?) cast member of Shit-Faced Shakespeare selected to get completely shit-faced. I’m sure that at drama school, all actors are taught about the complete dedication required to act in a Shakespeare play; I don’t think that getting utterly wasted is quite what the lecturers had in mind.

The premise of this show is quite simple – Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream, where a different actor each night gets completely blotto. Let me reassure you, they’re not acting drunk. They are drunk. Not just a little drunk, but totally and utterly pissed. Prior to the show Louise Lee, who plays Helena, had two bottles of wine and two cans of Guinness, and two audience members are given a gong and kazoo; if they think the drunken cast member is sobering up they just have to give the signal and another drink is poured for them.

Going in, I was a little dubious about how this would work (just Google “University of Sussex drunk Shakespeare” to see how things might go wrong). Talking to Richard, one of FringeGuru’s editors, didn’t help. “It'll be an experience,” he told me.  “If nothing else, it presents interesting ethical issues”. When your editor says that, you know it isn’t going to be a regular review.

But I actually found it very funny and irreverent, and done with a real fondness. This certainly isn’t Laurence Olivier’s Shakespeare, but if you overlooked the drunkenness, it was actually quite a good take on one of Shakespeare’s more raucous plays. I especially liked Robert Smythson’s highly-sexualised Puck. In fact, if any word describes this show, “raucous” is it; the drunkenness just takes it up to another level.

Drunk Helena was superb. At one point, she tried to perform CPR on Lysander and Hermia; she pulled out an audience member so she could lean on him; and she went into Italian every time she got stuck. I especially liked the free-styling (somehow, I don’t think “rivers of Satan flowing into my vagina” is from the original Shakespeare).

Which leads me to a warning. The show is very rude. This is not for you if you don’t like the odd f-bomb, where what I mean by ‘odd’ is a continual barrage. And even aside from the language, it’s certainly not a show for everyone. My American-born wife suggested it was a very British take on drinking. I wouldn’t take a recovering alcoholic or my teetotaller mum.

At times it feels anarchic, and there is a very real tension that the show might fall apart at any moment. However, I think it’s actually quite a controlled environment. The show kept to its hour-long running time, which was a good thing since any longer might have let the joke wear thin. And like any good improv, the actors trusted each other: that’s what stopped it feeling like a gimmick.

The show is playing at the award-winning Warren, which has a lovely bar and good food too (I recommend the hot dog). I’d suggest a trip to the bar pre-show to get the drinks in.  And no matter how bad your hang-over the morning after is, you know someone else is feeling it a whole lot worse.

<< Bash   Dead Happy >>