Shit-Faced Shakespeare | Theatre Review
Last week, I and a friend (hey Rob!) went to see Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo and Juliet. It was bloody hilarious.
Shit-Faced Shakespeare, one of Shakespeare’s lesser-known plays, has a fairly obvious plot point in the title. Four nights a week five performers perform an hour-long (ish) show of Romeo & Juliet and one of them is absolutely shit-faced.
The shit-faced actor in our performance – as the actor changes every night – was Chris. Chris played Tybalt and Lord Capulet.
How does it work?
Well, there is a compere who is not involved in the acting but controls the situation and stops the shit-faced actor from getting too out of control. At the beginning of the show the lovely northern lass came out and offered the audience three things:
- A gong – to be banged by an audience member when they thought that the shit-faced actor was sobering up
- A bugle – to be blown by another audience member when they thought the shit-faced actor was sobering up
- A bucket – to be rushed up to the stage if any of the actors on stage called out bucket! at any point during the show. For obvious reasons. (Thankfully not used in this performance)
The compere revealed to the audience exactly how much alcohol the shit-faced actor had consumed in the four hours prior to the show. A whole bottle of prosecco (my poison of choice), two beers, and two lagers. She also revealed the lagers they had ready on a hostess trolley to give the actor during the show.
To confirm: the actor was really drunk. This is not fake.
The show then begins.
It is an abridged version of Romeo and Juliet with the actors often playing multiple parts – excluding Romeo and Juliet. The opening scene between Benvolio and Mercutio started off the evening with some filthy hilarity before on-came the stumbling Tybalt.
Tybalt (Chris) was not in the mood to fight. He called everyone babe or bitch and thought that after many nights of performing this play that maybe the fighting was a little unnecessary now.
Nevertheless, Mercutio (Saul) was particularly keen to start a fight.
After the compere called time and replaced their swords with various inflatables – for safety reasons – the two began fighting. Of course, Tybalt gave both Mercutio and Benvolio ‘flesh wounds’ after whacking them over the heads with his ‘sword’ a few times. But no one died – hallelujah – and the story could continue.
It loses a lot of translation, I grant you, but the joy of this play is that every night is different and the shit-faced actor can change the play in any way – by design or accident – which makes for one amusing rendition of Romeo and Juliet.
On comes Lord Capulet
The shit-faced actor also played Juliet’s father and the thing you must note about Tybalt/Lord Capulet is that he is a very effeminate (possibly homosexual) character. He really fancied the audience member that was selected to play Paris – Juliet’s arranged suitor – the poor guy plucked from the audience was manhandled and forcibly pushed to the ground for a bit of rough and tumble with his future father-in-law.
The compere stepped in on these occasions to save the poor man – who was a very good sport though.
The other relationship that Lord Capulet had which was particularly amusing – and a running gag throughout the show – was with Romeo.
Montague and Capulet hate each other… right? Yeah, not in this show.
Romeo (Richard) was much loved by Lord Capulet (Chris) who often hugged, kissed, fondled, and praised him both on and off stage.
The balcony scene
This had to be one of the funniest scenes in the play. Not because the scene is particularly funny – I think they were going for romantic. But when steams of vapor started appearing just off the curtain we thought there was a fire. In fact, it was Chris having a vape. This scene was off to a slightly odd start.
Then when ‘light by yonder moon breaks’ and no moon appears… So the actor waits… and repeat the line… and they wait… and then they repeat the line and suddenly a shit-faced actor appears with a moon. And falls very hard to the ground and looks like he’s knocked himself out. Yeah, that was both funny and worrying.
I’ve never seen Romeo abandon Juliet for her father so quickly.
Chris was fine though – no actors were mortally wounded in this play – and the show carried on.
The murder of Mercutio
When Tybalt returned to fight Mercutio and Romeo he still wasn’t that keen on having another sword fight. So much so that it was Romeo that killed Mercutio ‘accidentally’ as they were rushed for time.
Also, Tybalt would not die. He seemed pretty enamored with Romeo – honestly, everyone just loves Romeo – and took to being stabbed willingly (not an innuendo) and rolling around on the floor with him. It took Benvolio, Romeo, and the compere stabbing Tybalt with many inflatables, and forcibly dragging off his talking ‘corpse’ before he eventually ‘passed away’.
By this point Romeo and Juliet were already married, her father was still trying to set her up with Paris – who was brought up onto the stage once again and tumbled with his future father-in-law again – and Lord Capulet was on to downing his second drink of the night on stage. (The gong was banged and the bugle was blown).
And during this hilarity, Juliet decided to fake her death. And have an amusing and satisfying ‘eff-you’ interaction with a heckler as she did so.
The Death Scene
This is the scene where I thought my cheeks would never stop hurting.
The scene begins as it normally does – Juliet looks dead, Romeo is devastated, kisses her, and takes some poison… Lord Capulet runs in and tackles him to the ground, slaps him screaming ‘throw it up! throw it up! throw it up!’ Juliet wakes up, pulls her dad off of her husband, who is not dead and everyone lives happily ever after with Lord Capulet involved in a polyamorous, incestuous, relationship with his daughter and son-in-law.
Just as Shakespeare intended.
If you get a chance to see this show do it. The tickets are only £19.50 and it’s a really good, relaxed evening of laughs.
I can’t wait to see what Shakespeare plays they do next. Rob and I will be there. What about you? If you’re going to Shit-Faced Shakespeare or have seen a Shit-Faced Shakespeare show performed let me know in the comments below.