3-⭐ · Fringe Reviews 2018 · Reviews · Theatre Reviews

REVIEW: ‘Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet’ by Magnificent Bastard Productions

3 Stars

(Performed in August 2018 – Review published in November 2018)

Shit-Faced Shakespeare is always such a coin-toss in terms of quality. It all depends very much on which cast-member is the one getting shit-faced and on what exactly they do on the night. Last year’s version of Romeo and Juliet, which I saw with the Romeo in the drinking-seat, was a hilarious riot. This version of Hamlet, which I saw with Laertes as the drunk, was…well a lot less enjoyable to be honest.

Laertes proved to be a belligerent and aggressive drunk, whose antics were more embarrassing than amusing. He had his moments, I won’t deny, but largely he was more an irritation than an asset. The better parts of this performance came from the planned elements of the show (and yes we all know that some of the supposed drunken improvisations are entirely rehearsed). I said last year that one of the strengths of Shit-Faced Shakespeare is that it already adds it’s own little flavours to classic Shakespeare plays that can make the production, or parts of it, amusing and special even without the drunkneness. The recruiting of a random audience member to play Polonius (in this case Richard or “Dicky Polonius”) and the noisy setting up of the players drowning out most of Hamlet’s To Be or Not To Be soliloquy were standouts. Some of these moments were actually funnier than all of what Laertes did put together.

Part of the problem Shit-Faced Shakespeare has these days is that it’s done so well. As the years have gone by, and it’s gotten more and more well-known, it’s been performed in bigger and bigger spaces. The one I saw it in last year was a good size. Big but not so big as to lose its intimacy. This year, the massive size of the venue really seemed to rob it of most of its charm. Sometimes success isn’t worth the price you pay for it.

So all in all, a disappointment really but still fun to some extent. I’ll close by saying that my favourite moment of the show came when Ophelia, mad by this point, kissed (a surprised) Laertes, prompting the girl sat behind me to gasp with genuine distress “that’s your brother!”

 

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