Review: Sh!tfaced Shakespeare, Great Yorkshire Fringe

The company behind Sh!tfaced Shakespeare brought Hamlet to the Great Yorkshire Fringe in York. Picture by Rah Petherbridge.
The company behind Sh!tfaced Shakespeare brought Hamlet to the Great Yorkshire Fringe in York. Picture by Rah Petherbridge.
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There has been an awful lot of pop up Shakespeare in York this summer. Over at Clifford’s Tower, in an impressive recreation of the historic Rose Theatre, there have been performances of Macbeth, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, Richard III and Romeo Juliet.

Then just when you thought you’d had your fill of the Bard, the company behind Sh!tfaced Shakespeare turns up in another temporary theatre as part of the city’s annual Great Yorkshire Fringe.

The premise is simple. Take five actors, get one of them drunk and then raise the curtain on an irreverent take of one of Shakespeare’s most popular plays. In York, it was Hamlet and Jack Stigner had the (dis)honour of being the one apparently plied with the best part of a bottle of gin.

It’s entertaining enough and Stigner does a sterling job of at least appearing to be half-cut. I could be wrong, but the real trick behind the company, which has been a comedy circuit favourite since founded 2010, is presenting a production which appears to be unravelling when in fact it’s carefully choreographed chaos.

All the key scenes and speeches are there, but the story is largely unimportant as the plot gives way to Stigner’s deftly delivered slurry asides, ably aided and abetted by a cast blessed with expert comic timing.

Does it matter whether he is really drunk? Not really. While the joke does eventually wear a little thin, for the most part this is the kind of Shakespearean performance where you leave worthy academic insights at the door and just enjoy the fun.