The ‘Shitfaced’ brand has been going for quite a few years. Magnificent Bastard productions proudly showcase it as a success and rightly so. No fringe season goes by without seeing at least a couple of their productions in the mix. The premise is; a group of actors put on an abridged version of a well-known theatre show and one of the actors is highly inebriated and the show follows their character as they attempt their dialogue and routines (which they mostly fail) whilst being absolutely ‘shitfaced’.

Many have approached the ‘Shitfaced’ productions with criticism on its safety, authenticity and quality. One reviewer in the past has said ‘pointless if it’s put-on, cruel if it’s real, and staggeringly bad if you’re sober’.

My first experience watching a ‘Shitfaced’ production was only recently, where I saw their production of the musical, Oliver! (‘Shitfaced Showtime: Oliver with a Twist’), which was enjoyable for what it was – a quick hour of stumbling and mumbling – but the joke of having a drunk actor on stage unfortunately doesn’t stay funny for very long. I have now returned to Leicester Square Theatre to see their production of ‘Shitfaced Shakespeare: Hamlet’ and even though it is a very similar show with the same “improvised” jokes, the show seemed tighter and more enjoyable. Though, our actor was clearly more drunk this time around and I could feel the audience anxiously wince from time to time.

Lead Hamlet (played by David Ellis) was the chosen cast member in this production to drink before the show. After a couple of pale ales and two thirds of a bottle of tequila, Ellis stumbles on to the stage and even though he is strongly under the influence, you can tell he is a strong comedian and is enjoying himself. Ellis’ Hamlet is stupidly charming at first and was key in making this show an enjoyable night. His silly attitude on stage added to the ridiculousness of the entire production. Though, there were times where he would get a little out of hand and he would need to be controlled by the MC (Beth-Louise Priestley) who proves why such ‘safety’-roles exist in ‘Shitfaced’ productions. She also controlled the audience well – who soon became the villains of the show, daring Hamlet to continue drinking at most opportunities. 

The night was overall successful and our company were indeed stronger players than the ones in ‘Showtime’. However, there were times where Ellis’ behaviour made the audience feel a little uneasy, like we were watching a reckless, cocky teenager. Though, maybe this is coming from a reviewer who was considerably more sober than the rest of the audience.

The recurring issue with the ‘Shitfaced’ series – what exactly is it? Is it a theatre show? Reckless parody? Improv? Pub crawl on stage? The answer is equally not clear in this production as it has been in previous. However, if you drink a quarter of what our lead had before curtain up, you’re sure to have some sense of a good time. Cheers, all.  Bottoms up.