Friday 16 August 2013

Nods to audience

Shitfaced Shakespeare, Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2013

The premise of Magnificent Bastard’s Shitfaced Shakespeare is well-known by now: a small, classically trained cast perform an extremely trimmed version of a Shakespeare play while one of them is blind drunk. It’s a Fringe favourite now and never fails to raise a smile. This year, the team performs Much Ado About Nothing, taking on the parts of Beatrice, Benedict, Hero, Claudio, Don John and Leonata (the father is now a mother). The evening I saw the show, Beth-Louise Priestley as Hero was the sozzled party.

It’s obviously a riot of a show with many hilarious results (we all sung ‘Happy Birthday’ down the phone to Priestley’s sister, for instance). The sober cast are all well drilled by now, understanding what to do in certain situations and keeping the show from going completely awol. But then even the drunkard normally has a fairly good grasp of what’s going on; through repetition, they’ve clearly managed to make performing the piece second-nature.

On a slightly serious note, I actually think there’s a lot to be said for this irreverent, knowing style of performance, which never pretends (unlike much theatre) to be anything it’s not. After pulling a pained expression, for example, Priestley then looked proud of herself, pointed to her face and shouted ‘Acting’. It’s a tiny gesture, but I genuinely wish we’d get these nods to audience more when at the theatre; we all know we’re watching a performance, so why pretend otherwise?

Punchdrunk could also learn a thing or two from Shitfaced Shakespeare, which allows direct audience involvement to drive the show by giving various members the ability to signal when the drunk actor should take another drink. Obviously, this is merely to raise the hilarity of a show which is already hilarious. It never pretends to be anything its not, and always has a firm tongue in its cheek. Great fun.

Company: Magnificent Bastards
Venue: C Venues till 26 August 2013


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