Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet by Magnificent Bastard Productions

Shit-Faced Shakespeare first came onto my radar 5 years ago, when I spent the summer at the Fringe performing with Paperfinch Theatre. I was sitting in the bar of our C venue surrounded by frog puppets – don’t ask – when I heard a small voice pipe up: “Daddy, what does ‘shit-faced’ mean?”. Rather than regale the little girl with my own definition of ‘shit-faced’ based on years of personal experience, I decided to let her father handle the situation and made a mental note to try and see this show that sounded right up my street: drunken debauchery and Shakespeare – what’s not to love?

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Sadly I didn’t get to see it that year, but upon returning to the Fringe this summer I was thrilled to see that Shit-Faced Shakespeare has become something of a Fringe staple, going from strength to strength. The venue has changed from the much smaller C Venues to the grandiose McEwan Hall, which has a beautifully ornate ceiling and seems to be a perfect fit for some classy Shakespeare.

Unsurprisingly, given the name and concept of the show, we didn’t actually see any classy Shakespeare. Instead we were treated to a production of Hamlet where the actor playing Claudius had downed a bottle of tequila prior to the show, and was also plied with beer throughout to keep him suitably sauced. From the offset, the audience were put in the party mood with music and a lively compere who explained the premise of the show and gave the all-important sick bucket to an audience member in the front row, who seemed a bit too enthused by the prospect of being the potential target of tequila-laced vomit.

There is no point in summarising the plot because this was pleasingly the least Hamlet production of Hamlet I’ve ever seen, particularly once Claudius had insisted that Laertes and Ophelia dress up as each other in order to protect Ophelia from Hamlet’s apparent madness. Claudius was even hornier than usual (a bit too much passionate snogging which I’m hoping the actress playing Gertrude was OK with), rather unsteady on his feet, a big fan of calling everyone a ‘twat’ and surprisingly progressive with his views on gender which is, to quote, ‘fluid at the moment’. The Saturday night audience were in the mood for a laugh, and this production provided plenty. Although Claudius was obviously a main source of humour, credit must also go to the other performers who responded well to his antics and even managed to do a bit of Shakespeare between all the drunkard-wrangling. A most enjoyable evening!

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