Drunk actor will create mayhem on stage in Sheffield in Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare production of A Midsummer Night's Dream
Performing on stage with one member of the cast blind drunk sounds like a nightmare for actors – but that’s what the team of Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare do every night.
One of the cast regulars, Stacey Norris, is stone cold sober at the moment though, as she’s six months pregnant, so she’s directing shows instead.
The company are appearing at the Octagon Centre, Sheffield on November 8.
Stacey said that the idea came about and was promptly rejected a decade ago when the company’s artistic director Lewis Ironside was brainstorming ideas for 12 hours of theatre programming for The Secret Garden music festival.
“Then they had an interview when someone spoke about the idea and it got printed. They realised ‘we have to do it now’.”
That first attempt was a disaster: “The show lasted five minutes long. The poor girl that did it first off was taken to the St John Ambulance tent because she wasn’t very well. They immediately said, ‘We’re not doing it again’.
“She woke up the next day and was told ‘We’re not doing the show tonight’. She was gutted and said, ‘I think it is a really good idea. Let’s give it another go’.”
Word went round the festival that an actor had died on stage the first night, so around 900 people turned up and it went down a storm.
Lessons were learned, the show went from strength to strength and performances have now taken place around the world.
Stacey said the designated drunk for that night’s show starts drinking slowly and steadily, with the rest of the cast creating a nice atmosphere, playing games and music.
A compere opens the show and gives the audience a number of instruments. They can bang a gong or blow a bugle and the compere will give the drunk another drink.
The audience in Sheffield will see a production of the comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, said Stacey. “It’s an entirely straight version of the play, rehearsed fully over two weeks before the shows go up. There’s no drinking involved in the rehearsal process.
“The drunk has licence to do whatever they want to do to the play and characters and the rest of the actors have to improvise, ideally in Shakespearean. Sometimes it doesn’t look like A Midsummer Night’s Dream very much at all.
“If one of the lovers decide they don’t want to marry the person they are meant to and they want to marry the fairy, that’s what’s happening! You have to try and make that work in the story.”
Just to add to the confusion, the actors play different roles on different nights.
Stacey said she'd had some memorable moments on stage. “I was playing the Nurse in Romeo and Juliet in Australia. It was my drinking night.
“I think they are two of the most annoying characters Shakespeare has ever written – spoilt little brats.
“This obviously came out when I was playing the Nurse. I got an audience member up to kill Romeo halfway through as he’s most annoying.” The poor actor had to try to continue as a ghost.
Stacey has also been the victim of a drunk actor, being forced to strip on stage by a female cast member who decided she wanted to play her role and demanded the costume.
She said: Literally anything can happen. We’re one of the closest groups of people because you can have people’s fingers in your mouth, you get licked by people, so you have to be a close-knit team.”
The box office for the show is at performancevenues.group.shef.ac.uk or call 0114 222 8888.