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Shit-faced Shakespeare: A Midsummer Night’s Dream review – ‘cheap laughs’

The cast of Shit-faced Shakespeare at Leicester Square Theatre, London. Photo: Rah Petherbridge Photography The cast of Shit-faced Shakespeare at Leicester Square Theatre, London. Photo: Rah Petherbridge Photography
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On the last night of a run, actors often fear that the contents of any quaffable prop might be replaced with alcohol. Magnificent Bastard Productions, however, guarantee that a random actor will get completely trashed each night.

The fringe staple of the last few years has scaled up their operation for their seven-week run at the Leicester Square Theatre with A Midsummer Night’s Dream. There is even merchandise including branded bottle openers and hipflasks – but the show is still a fringe-friendly hour with a five-strong cast.

This Dream is not only lacking Rude Mechanicals, but missing Oberon and Titania too, with only the four lovers and Puck in attendance. It’s quite a textual feat, but to little purpose – Shakespeare’s comedy is merely a framework for the conceit. There are cheap laughs in cabaret-style scenes of prosthetic groins and audience participation, but even when he’s offstage the crowd’s attention is on the drunkard of the night, in this case Saul Marron (playing Lysander), who giggles and lolls and occasionally rattles inaudibly through his part.

The genuine laughs come from the sober lovers – especially Beth Louise-Priestley’s Hermia – refusing to break scene and so extemporising around Marron’s antics, although there’s a strong suspicion that the best ‘improvised’ gags were worked out in rehearsal.

The audience give an iconoclastic cheer when the company sign off with a cry of “Shakespeare’s better when it’s shit-faced!” but after a weekend celebrating all the variety that Shakespeare inspires in performance, it’s hard to agree.

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With no dramatic tension in its conceit, Shit-faced Shakespeare is deep only in drink