Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing at Leicester Square Theatre
Only in Britain. It’s not just anywhere the, “Get it down ya” drinking culture could be crafted into viable stage entertainment – but that is the project made into reality here in Sh!t-faced Shakespeare’s latest offering, Much Ado About Nothing. This is a show that is unique, boisterous and undeniably amusing.
However, it does make for a slightly uncomfortable spectacle. The brash, “Let’s get wasted, haha!” protocol (though only actually applying to one actor on-stage) and the crass humour it promotes are pushed hard from the get-go, eclipsing the genuinely impressive element of this production: the improvisation. This whole scheme isn’t just an out-and-out gag, there is a thoroughly talented company of actors at work here, and the texts they work with of course speak for themselves. They navigate the near-endless stream of booze-infused tricky corners with authentic and entertaining improvisatory skill.
Despite the talent on display, the drunken aspect of Sh!t-faced Shakespeare has an alarming knock-on effect. As events stray away from the Bard’s script (which is the majority of the time), the shouting starts to take hold. It’s not competitively fuelled, but as different actors’ inspirations for directions to take proceedings take hold – initiated generally by a noisily intoxicated individual – the clamour to be heard becomes a touch overwhelming. Unfortunately, the audio mix doesn’t do much to allay this.
There is a noble ambition behind this project: new and inventive ways to increase the approachability of great literature are eternally in demand, and this is an enjoyable example. While the script is far from meticulously observed in this case, Shakespeare’s work is certainly honoured and presented to the masses in a way that wouldn’t necessarily be put up with in a straight, sober production. It may be crude, it may be a lot to take in and it may perpetuate an unappealing aspect of British culture, but Sh!t-faced Shakespeare amuses and sports some fine dramatic skill.
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: Much Ado About Nothing is at Leicester Square Theatre from 13th July until 9th September 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.