Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew at Leicester Square Theatre
The premise sounds like it stemmed from the mind of a first-year undergraduate student: strip a Shakespearean play down to a mere hour, gather six actors and have one of them perform after having drained two-thirds of a bottle of gin. The result is what one would expect (the drunken actor frequently forgets his lines, breaks the fourth wall, improvises and the production quality is at a bare minimum). In total, it’s flawed, silly and immature – but wildly entertaining.
It goes without saying that reducing the play so drastically doesn’t do much for the plot. We are given little more than the bare bones, with Petruchio wooing and finally taming the shrew Katherine, while lovesick romantic Lucentio plans a scheme to win over Bianca. It’s not the most politically correct of plays, but it never takes itself particularly seriously, and the actors here do their best to point out the flaws of The Taming of the Shrew – not exactly with subtlety, but with a good sense of humour nevertheless.
Obviously, the point of Sh*t-faced Shakespeare isn’t to deliver a competent version of one of the Bard’s plays, but rather to see how much nonsense the crew can get away with while still managing to portray something which approximates a coherent plot. As such, there is plenty of audience engagement, poor drunken Petruchio has to drink even more while on stage and the other actors constantly make fun of him.
Consequently, a lot of the charm of the original piece is lost; much of the comedy is overshadowed by the spectacle of improvisation and the hilarity of the lead character barely being able to stand on his two feet. It’s a great pity for an audience that actually wants to enjoy a proper Shakespearean comedy, but great fun for one that knows what it’s up for.
So yes, technically, Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Taming of The Shrew is a dreadful rendition of one of the playwright’s classics, but with light entertainment, improv comedy and a range of low-key humour, this alternative take on the Bard is still extremely enjoyable. A guaranteed night of entertainment, provided one is in the right mood – or slightly tipsy.
Photo: Rah Petherbridge
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare: The Taming of the Shrew is at Leicester Square Theatre from 17th April until 2nd June 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.