From the outset, Sh!t-faced Shakespeare is a compelling concept. It’s described as “the hilarious blend of an entirely serious Shakespeare play with an entirely sh!t-faced actor.” I had some questions – not the least of which was exactly how sh!t-faced is shi!t-faced?

Before the show starts, the MC/drunk-cast-member-wrangler explains that the cast will attempt to perform an hour-long version of Macbeth, racing against the clock while dealing with the derailments of the intoxicated actor. He tells us that they have started on the booze 4 hours before the show and explains the additional mechanisms, which include audience involvement, that keep them drinking throughout the show. He tells us that it’s rare to get through one scene without the show going off the rails. I shouldn’t have doubted him.

As soon as the show opens, with a choreographed march involving all five actors, you’re immediately scanning to identify who the unfortunate cast member is. The fact that I identify them within seconds gives you an idea of the level of inebriation. This time, it’s Lady Macbeth.

The chaos indeed begins in her first scene where she tells Macbeth she wants a divorce. The plot twists only build from there, ending in Lady Macbeth slitting Macbeth’s throat and choosing to reign as Queen beside Macduff as King.

One of the highlights was Lady Macbeth leading the audience in an enthusiastic chorus of ‘Sweet Caroline’ in the famous ‘Out Damned Spot’ scene.

It truly would be a different show for each audience. I doubt every version would include spontaneous rap, Lady Macbeth momentarily being possessed by the spirit of Al Pacino, or Macbeth – although sober – messing up his lines after being the designated drunk from the show the night before.

Adding to the comedy were the other actors trying desperately to keep it together and continue as things go more and more awry.

It was thoroughly entertaining: raunchy, raucous and ridiculous. But I also think it can be appreciated on a deeper level. The concept – coupling the revered work of Shakespeare with common bawdiness – creates a clever contrast that really delivers comedically. The success of the show is a real testament to the exceptional talent of the actors, their mutual trust and shared collective purpose. The uniqueness of each show makes it a particularly great Comedy Festival experience.

Event details

2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare

Venue: Athenaeum Theatre, Melbourne VIC
Dates: 9 – 21 April 2024
Tickets: $46.90 – $35

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