The Fringe is back and I’m back in Edinburgh for it, first time in a couple of years I’ve actually been here! Working as a tour guide on the Royal Mile can be a bit stressful when it’s so busy, but I’m trying to make the most of the festival as well, and see as many shows as I can. I saw Shit Faced Shakespeare a couple of years ago, and this year the same company have done a sort of spin off, in the form of Shit Faced Showtime, doing the musical ‘Oliver Twist’. The concept of the show is simple; they perform ‘Oliver Twist’, only one cast member is completely and utterly shit faced!
The night I saw this, it was the character of Nancy who was drunk (they take turns among the cast every night, as the same person couldn’t do it all month!), and she was a riot! One of the things I love about this, is that they’re all trained actors, and the rest of the cast are sincerely trying to continue on with the play as normal, but it’s impossible at times, depending on the behaviour of the drunk. They also need to have a bit of skill at improvisation, as sometimes they have to deviate from the script, to respond to and bounce off of whatever the drunk has decided to do.
There’s also an additional member who is ‘controlling’ the performance, i.e. stepping in to stop the drunk getting out of hand, helping her with props of costumes when she’s too drunk to do so herself, or providing her with extra drinks when the audience requests it. She was actually a pretty funny addition herself, when she had to pop up!
The performance is a rollercoaster experience, as it’s totally unpredictable. You can never know what the drunk is going to do next, and you could see this multiple times and get different experiences, depending on who was drinking and what they ended up doing. There are moments when the drunk is probably exaggerating, and going more over the top with their behaviour than they perhaps would in any other scenario, but this is necessary for the performance, to make it as funny as possible, and it still all seemed pretty natural, nothing too forced.
There were even moments when the rest of the cast couldn’t quite keep a straight face, but they stayed in character remarkably well – pretending not to respond to their real names, or looking baffled at the intrusion of a can of beer into the Victorian London setting of the play! The play is condensed compared to the original musical, and they switched a few songs from it for perhaps better known ones – Nancy’s solo was ‘I Dreamed a Dream’, rather than ‘As Long as He Needs Me’, which she sang very well for being so totally shit faced! This confused me a little, but I suppose it’s good for international spectators here for the Fringe, who may not know the original play.
All in all, I laughed a lot, and that’s really what I’m after from comedy shows at the Fringe. I think I might’ve even enjoyed this more than Shit Faced Shakespeare, since it’s a play that I know much better than some Shakespeare plays (it depends which play they do at the Fringe each year as to whether I know it), and the fact that’s it’s a musical meant there were even more elements for the drunk to mess up – she was generally late on all the dance moves! It was completely hysterical, tears of laughter rolling down my face at times, and I couldn’t stop grinning and giggling from start to finish!