Shit-Faced Shakespeare has been a fringe staple for nearly a decade. The company has expanded its repertoire to include Shit-Faced Showtime and now it has turned its attention to the festive season.
The concept remains unchanged. A small group of actors perform a SparkNotes version of a well-known text as one cast member gets thoroughly hammered. The merrymaker role rotates throughout the run, and on the performance I attended, director Katy Baker played a semi-compliant Ghost of Christmas Past and Mrs Cratchit, having polished off a pre-show bottle of Prosecco, a solid amount of gin and a shot of vegan Baileys.
She’s exactly what the already rowdy audience are hoping for: readily torpedoing the Dickensian Christmas songs with some Spice Girls or a Liza Minnelli impression, and pulling bolshy, bemused faces.
As the beaming host of the proceedings, Will Seaward’s Charles Dickens also acts as minder, keeping Baker away from the set and from bluer language, giving two audience members the chance to jingle his bell and pull his cracker in order to administer two more rounds of booze when they see fit.
Despite John Milton’s appropriately growly Scrooge, things plod when Baker’s offstage. The production values – subtly lewd wallpaper backdrop aside – are pretty low and though the cast’s improv chops are evident, the plot is breezed through with no scope for audience investment. With the drunk cast member absent, the show’s tone is unsettled and the dialogue desultory.
But it’s hard to resist when Baker is at her most entertainingly difficult. Concerns about sophistication be damned, an air of magnanimity wins out – at this performance at least.