MICF – Sh!t-faced Shakespeare Macbeth

by | Apr 9, 2024

By Natalie Ristovski

“Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot…”

  • Macbeth, William Shakespeare

To hear modern historians tell it, Shakespeare was a man for the masses, a writer for the common people who – despite the fact that his father was a successful glove-maker and his mother hailed from affluent land-owners – understood what it was to struggle in middle class England…but struggle in that Fight Club ‘I will never be Elon Musk like the media promised and now I’m a very angry white man’ type of way.

Don’t get me wrong – being brought up middle class and white myself, I am quite a fan of the misogynistic musings of ‘The Bard.’ I too was forced to study the meaning of each syntax and syllable in high school, before being mercifully rescued by Baz Luhrmann in the 90s as he singlehandedly brought sexy back to Shakespeare when all hope seemed lost.

Socially groomed middle-class habits die hard, and we do so love our dead and drunk artists. Especially when they allegedly die after getting totally plastered with their mates. Which is one of the reasons why calling a show Sh!tfaced Shakespeare is such a stroke of genius.

Baz may have brought sexy back to the Bard, but it is the cast and crew of Sh!tfaced Shakespeare that are bringing his stories back to the good-natured gutter where they belong.

The premise is quite simple – take a handful of classically trained actors and have them rehearse a Shakespeare play, then select one of them at random and get them absolutely munted before the show. Wind them all up and release them into the wild – the wild in this instance being the stage of the Athenaeum Theatre during Melbourne Comedy Festival.

It’s a formula that cannot fail. Especially today.

I’m going to call it for all of us – today’s theatre-goers are absolutely f*cking feral. The growing number of jukebox musicals promising a good-old romp through our teenage mix tapes, and the introduction of liquor being allowed inside theatre auditoriums (trust me, this wasn’t always a thing), means that many modern audiences are morphing into the inebriated crowds you’d usually find watching footy down at the pub on a Saturday afternoon.

Which is how and why Sh!tfaced Shakespeare thrives. It is dinner theatre fare in its most gloriously unapologetic form.

Walking into the Athenaeum, it became very clear very quickly that most of my audience-mates had read the word Sh!itfaced, and had taken it as a guideline for the evening. The humans around me were very drunk and loud, and it was this sea of sweaty bodies that swept me along towards my seat as reimagined and remixed bardic doof doof blared over the speakers.

The show itself was exactly what one would expect it to be – a group of very talented individuals playing fast and loose with the source material and the audience, reminiscent of Mel Brooks in his heyday.

The festivities began with our esteemed MC for the evening running us through the rules, handing out some fun ‘props’ to get audience members involved and explaining the way that it would all work. Our host, who had a bit of a penchant for screaming into the microphone that rendered some of their dialogue unintelligible, was nonetheless charming and seemed to do a relatively good job of keeping the chaos on track throughout the night.

What followed were pratfalls, parody, cod laughs, audience participation, some highly entertaining improvisation and the occasional bout of actual Shakespeare as the whole train-wreck of an evening hurtled towards some distant illusion of a conclusion. It didn’t matter whether you knew or could understand what was going on, because it was nowhere near the point of the exercise. The cast were clearly having a great time, and the audience mostly followed suit, whooping and cheering, the occasional belly laugh bursting forth when one of the more ‘literary’ attendees got some obscure reference obviously interwoven into the dialogue for only the keenest observer. There were those – like the group of ten in a row in front of me – who had clearly misread the fine print and had been expecting more Bard with their balderdash, but no one likes a hoity toity theatre snob anyway.

On the night I attended it was the character of Banquo who was to be the drunken nuisance of the night, and the actor playing them embraced their role wholeheartedly, with a likeable pizzazz that prevented them from ever slipping over the edge into annoying. I would say that they stole the show, were it not for the arrival of Daggerlad…and Banquo’s son.

Costumes and lighting were basic and served their purpose – props did likewise…the beauty of this kind of theatre is that the budget does not have to be high to be effective.

The script itself did feel a bit clunky at times – not all the jokes landed, and a lot of the improvisation seemed pre-written, as if the actual Shakespeare were an obstacle to rush through to get to the next gag. The sober cast were just a tad too eager to go off-script…but for the drunken masses it hardly would have mattered. There were enough cultural references and good old-fashioned innuendo that the final result was a sound offering of absolute bonkery.

All in all, Sh!tfaced Shakespeare was a good fun night out, watching a bunch of artists who were still obviously enjoying their jobs as they hung out with their mates and messed around onstage.

As long as you don’t expect it to make sense, and don’t get too emotionally attached to the idea of the show actually having an ending, you will have a great time.

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