Sh!t-faced Showtime: Oliver with a Twist at Leicester Square Theatre
In the world of theatre, like many of the arts, there exists a challenging aim to provide interesting, funny and original content as entertainment for audiences. One company, Magnificent Bastard Productions – the minds behind Sh!tfaced Shakespeare – have devised shows that are like any other, except in one essential regard: there is a drunken cast member in every performance.
Host Kathy Baker provides some context with quirky instructions to members of the audience. Amongst the objects handed out are a toy xylophone, a recorder and a bucket in case of vomiting, bestowed upon one unfortunate woman. The crowd are informed of all the different alcoholic beverages Wright has had prior to the performance, slowly getting drunk over four hours. If the actor is in any way sobering up, these instruments should be played, including the host’s own “horn of last resort”, to be used only when things go awry, or again, if Baker believes Wright is performing too well. Filled with explicit innuendoes and filthy banter, the show begins with a satisfied crowd.
Tonight’s staging of Charles Dickens’s classic tale sees actor Issy Wroe Wright take to the stage as the young orphan. Throughout the performance, she remembers most of her lines, singing and dancing remarkably well for someone who is meant to be quite legless. The humour comes from the player’s spontaneous ad-libs, which the rest of the ensemble do their best to work around, resulting in a rather muddled and shortened version of the Victorian story. Wright runs around the stage – at one point scrambling off and being chased across the auditorium – and at other times she sits, making herself comfortable, while Fagin (Nick Moore) resorts to addressing Oliver as though the boy has more power than he, a stark contrast to the original novel. Beth Rowe’s sad but strong portrayal of Nancy is good, alongside that of Alan McHale’s many characters – including the Artful Dodger, a policeman and Irish housekeeper – while Hal Hillman’s Bill Sykes threatens without turning too menacing, Wright’s drunken performance always lightening the mood. There is not much of a story here, though there are a number of songs, including those not having anything remotely to do with Oliver Twist, such as 1952’s Singin’ In The Rain and I Dreamed A Dream from Les Misérables; live musical accompaniment is provided by Moore.
Sh!tfaced Showtime – Oliver With A Twist is original in its inception, but there is no real entertainment factor here apart from the aforementioned spontaneity and improvised lines. It is clear the actors are enjoying themselves – as are some inebriated members of the audience – but the humour is hit and miss, and when it is funny, it’s not hilarious. Nonetheless, if you’re looking for some light banter with your friends or family in central London, this could be a silly night of harmless fun.
Images: Rah Petherbridge
Sh!t-faced Showtime: Oliver with a Twist is at Leicester Square Theatre from 29th March until 12th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.