Adelaide Fringe 2020: Shit-Faced Shakespeare: Hamlet


Where: The May Wirth at Gluttony Rymill Park

When: Until 15 March

Tickets: $34.90, here

Shit-Faced Shakespeare is, quite frankly, some of the most fun I’ve ever had at the Fringe. I finally saw the long-running phenomenon for the first time this year as the intrepid, inebriated cast took on the great tragedy of Hamlet. I left kicking myself for not having seen a Shit-Faced Shakespeare run before now. And I also left with tears streaming down my face and a sore belly from laughing far, far too hysterically hard.

The genius premise of Shit-Faced Shakespeare? A group of classically trained actors attempt to put on a performance of Shakespeare, but one cast member is magnificently drunk. A different actor gets drunk every night, so each show is unpredictable (it rewards multiple viewings). As the eponymous shit-faced actor stumbles, swaggers, and blabbers their way through the script, the rest of the cast effortlessly riff off the drunken babbler as they attempt to preserve some semblance of the original play’s meaning.

It’s an absolutely riotous time. On the night I attended, the intoxicated actor was a small-framed and loud-mouthed woman playing both Horatio and Ophelia (I suspect the formula works especially well when the supporting characters are drunk). She was one of the funniest stage actors I’ve ever seen and truthfully, some moments were so unexpectedly hilarious they almost broke me. I’m still laughing about the moment she burst onto the stage and blurted ‘Heil Hitler!’ instead of ‘Hail, Hamlet!’, then sloppily tried to explain she wasn’t a Nazi. Her impromptu karaoke performances had the audience singing along, and an especially crude anecdote about snorkeling is still burned into my memory.

The rest of the cast were outstanding in their ability to respond to the drunk actor’s whims. They crafted running jokes around the drunken outbursts without missing a beat. It was side-splittingly funny to watch them attempt to prompt the drunk actor to deliver a crucial piece of information or object. in a fabulous glitter frock coat, the MC of the show spent the evening running around after the inebriated Horatio/Ophelia, carrying her off the stage when she needed to leave the scene and interjecting when the scene got outrageously off-track.

Go and see this show. It helps to know the source material, but even if you don’t, you’ll howl with laughter at the unpredictable shit-faced antics. Who said Shakespeare wasn’t fun?

5/5 stars

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