Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare: Romeo & Juliet {Melbourne International Comedy Festival} – Comedy Review

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Alcohol! The cause of and solution to all of life’s problems. People can have fun sober, and they can have fun while intoxicated, but it reaches a new level entirely when sober people can laugh at somebody completely shit-faced!

Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare’s concept is so clever and simple, it’s genius and has the theatre troupe staggering their way across the globe. This original drunken Shakespeare group has delighted audiences since 2010, selling over half a million tickets worldwide. Returning to Australia just in time for the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the comedy troupe grace the Forum Melbourne stage with a tipsy production of Romeo & Juliet.

These jovial thespians are all classically trained actors capable of the real deal, but where’s the fun in that? Each night a single cast member is chosen to drink to excess in the hours leading up to the show. The rotating cast ensures no actor is forced to drink consecutive nights or more than 4 times a month (on stage at least). While drinking is the name of the game, we’re reassured that this is all in fun and nobody is put in harm’s way. More importantly, what would the theatre world be without drunken actors trying to hold it together on stage?

As the audience stream into the theatre, they’ll notice a mysterious covered trolley. The show begins with our bedazzled orator bounding on stage. With his incredible energy and booming voice, actor Will Seaward channels Brian Blessed at his loudest. He unveils the trolley revealing just how much our three sheets to the wind actor had to drink that night. 

He will then initiate the first of many levels of audience participation in the show. To two random audience members he presents a gong and a gavel, and at whichever point in the show they wish they can bang this one use only tool. The play will then stop and the drunken actor will be handed even MORE booze to drink! What’s more, a single lucky (or unlucky) audience member front row centre will be given a bucket to hold, just in case. Can you guess what that is for?

With that, the stage is set and the show begins! What keeps audiences coming back to Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare is that no two shows are the same. With such a large rotating cast, I can’t speak for who will be playing what part on any particular night. For our production however, the laughs started instantly with a monologue performed by a sloshed Flora Sowerby in the role of Benvolio. This is actually Sowerby’s 4th year with the troupe and you could tell she has a ball with it from beginning to end.

I would think everybody knows the basic outline of Romeo & Juliet by now, just by osmosis alone. This helps immeasurably as things can go completely off the rails fast. I’m sure there are some parts of the show which aren’t quite as off the cuff as it would seem. But these moments are still hilarious, nonetheless.

The true joy of Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare is only 50% the drunk actor on stage. The other half is the rest of the cast’s attempts to keep the show going with at least some degree of consistency. As well as Seaward, tasked to attempt to keep things on track and to stop anybody from getting hurt. 

But all the same the outrageous mayhem continues with profanity being thrown around, sets at risk of being tipped over, characters going off script, and beer even being poured on poor Romeo. As the improv goes on and the clock ticks down, a stray sword flies across the stage leading to a mad dash to stop it going into the audience! 

Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare’s production of Romeo & Juliet is a side-splitting good time. No two shows will ever be the same but the fantastic comradery this cast have with each other guarantees you’ll have as much fun with this show as I did.

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