Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare really, really do live up to their name.
Their shows every night genuinely combine an entirely serious adaptation of a Shakespearean classic with, as the company promises, an entirely ‘sh*t-faced cast member’.
They bring their production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream to the New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth on November 2.
Stacey Norris has been with the company for 10 years now: ‘I was here for the first year we went to Edinburgh which was the second year of the company. It was my first audition out of drama school and I got the part. We were doing Midsummer Night’s Dream and I was thinking: “But I am a serious actress! Do I really want to do this!” I was thinking: “Should I really accept this job?” And I pondered it for quite some time before I accepted the part, and really I haven’t looked back since!
‘I like to think that I still have that serious actress strength, but this really is a brilliant mixture of everything I love – Shakespeare, comedy and drinking!
‘We meet up four hours before the show, and somebody has been assigned to be the drinker. We used to pick a name out of a hat, but now we do so many shows a year that we have a rota so that we know exactly who is drinking. And we have somebody who is called the show runner and they pour the drinks and give the person food. Their job is to wait on them hand and foot and make sure they are okay while they get drunk. We want them to be the right sort of drunk, excitable and definitely mischievous and ready to disrupt all the other actors and give them difficult problems to solve. We don’t want somebody who is going to be sick! But we have got it down to a science now.
‘We know each other well. We tend to retain our actors. People stay with the show. We know how much a person can drink. But there are other factors that change on a day to day basis. The first time we went to Australia a couple of years ago, with the 40 degree heat, it had a real effect. You didn’t feel drunk as quickly. You had to drink more. But it can also depend on how much a person has slept and whether they had a party the night before. But generally it will take someone about the same amount to get drunk.’
Over the years, they have had just a tiny number of people for whom the show probably wasn’t right: ‘But we don’t audition people drunk because auditioning drunk is a completely different experience to being drunk on stage. We call it the three As – alcohol, adrenaline and audience. When you are in front of an audience of 400 people, the adrenaline mixes with the alcohol which makes you a different drunk to what you would have been!’
Once ‘the right kind of drunk’, the actor’s job is to disrupt: ‘They have to have fun and be mischievous and cause chaos for their fellow actors. If the other actors aren’t sweating buckets by the time the show finishes, then they haven’t done their job! They have to introduce things to change the storyline and make the others improvise incorporating the mess they have created.’
Suitable for ages 16 and up.
New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth
Saturday, November 2