Leicester Square Theatre, London, 05/01/2020.
In the week leading up to Christmas I watched four versions of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol and as much as they were all very different and all kinds of fun I felt pretty done with Dickens classic story, and wasn’t sure if I could enjoy yet another version. So kudos must go to Shit-faced Showtime for creating another a take on the story that was not only mostly very faithful but also very funny as well.
Shit-faced Showtime initially started off as Shit-faced Shakespeare but now they’ve broadened their remit, yet the set up is essentially the same where they take a classic and much lovely story and for each performance of a show one of the actors will get drunk beforehand and so be quite pissed when the curtain rises. He or She can try to stick to the script if they want, or just muck about and be silly, and the latter was clearly the order of the day with tonight’s performance.
It’s quite the juggling act as the rest of the cast have to do their best to keep the story going while the drunk person does whatever amuses themselves, but in case it gets out of hand (or at least threatens to) one of the cast hosts the night in character as Charles Dickens, and he also (with the help of a couple of members of the audience) ensures that the drunk actor is given more to drink at various points during the night.
As for the adaptation itself, it’s quite a faithful affair with a lot of the dialogue taken directly from the book, but there’s also a number of songs like Last Christmas, Merry Christmas Everybody and Baby It’s Cold Outside, all of which have slightly altered lyrics, so for example with the latter it becomes about Mrs Cratchit trying to seduce Bob, and Last Christmas is all about the break up between Scrooge and Belle. As well as being great actors the cast have fine vocals too, and it helped make it an even more enchanting affair.
As amusing as the slightly revised script is it’s the drunk person and how the cast react to him which provides most of the laughs however, and both were on top form tonight. Said drunk person was happy to make silly jokes and attempt to muck about with the sober performers (with Scrooge’s fake nose not surviving until the end of the play, for instance), and there was also some ridiculous dancing, a bit of minor innuendo, and some fun interaction with the audience as well, all of which made myself and the audience laugh hard, and frequently, throughout the seventy minute running time.
A more cynical reviewer might question exactly how much of it is improvised and how much is prepared beforehand, or whether the actor is really that drunk or is just exaggerating a bit, but taking it at face value it’s a piece of gloriously idiotic and very funny theatre, which has a mischievous tone that’s enormously infectious. This was the final night of the production so alas unless it’s restaged next Christmas it’s something which you won’t be able to see, but on the strength of it I’d wholeheartedly recommend catching them when they’re in their Shakespearean garb later on this year.
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