It’s all easy to write off Sh!tfaced Showtime and their sister group Sh!tfdaced Shakespeare as one trick ponies. After all, when your unique selling point is that one cast member is randomly selected during the afternoon to get, to put it bluntly, shitfaced, you can easily see what that one trick is going to be. But it really is lazy to lay such an accusation on their barstool, because take away the drunken actor, and what you are left with is still a fun piece of theatre that has a certain type of appeal for a certain type of audience; probably the type of audience that loves a little bit of panto along with plenty of booze.
Sh!tfaced Showtime’s A Pissedmas Carol takes Sh!tfaced Shakespeare’s original idea in a direction that, in many ways, is even more enjoyable. Whereas with Shakespeare the sober cast members work within the confines of what many see as dry script, by expanding into more light-hearted texts, it allows them to take even greater liberties. And liberties aplenty they take with the Dickens classic, turning it into a toe tapping musical that would likely work (almost) as well without the drunken presence of one member. Of course, once you do throw in a drunk to annoy and haunt Scrooge, well, that is a whole next level of ridiculousness that justifies the cost of the bar tab required to tank up tonight’s drunk.
Tonight, that drunk is Daniel Quirke, who we’re informed at the outset has so far downed two bottles of lager and a very large part of a bottle of Morgan’s spiced rum. After a very panto-esque introduction from Will Seaward, bombastic compare and a very passable Charles Dickens, our drunk is introduced as a worker in Scrooge’s office. As much as he tries to stay on script, tongues, as well as limbs, are a little looser, and those thoughts that may normally stay within one’s head are suddenly being vocalised. The classical writing of Dickens is not quite adhered too, but then if you want the classics respected, this really is not the show to see.
As much as Quirke generates plenty of laughter with his random utterings or failure to remember the next line, it is the remaining cast that silence any accusations of being that one trick pony. The level of improv is remarkable, quickly picking up on the smallest utterance of their drunk colleague and weaving it into the plot. When Quirke calls Scrooge a tosspot early on, it becomes a running theme that is returned to time and again as if it was part of the script all along. When Quirke decides to lick a colleague’s nose in way of greeting, it becomes the standard for all greetings throughout. It’s this improv that brings much of the laughter.
Better yet, the musical numbers demonstrate just what the cast can do sober. Weaving in A Fairytale of New York and Last Christmas, amongst others, allows the trio of Hal Hillman, Issy Wroe wright and Katy Baker to both show off their acting skills as well as demonstrate how best to deal with a drunk colleague. They manage it so smoothly, these are the people you’d want looking after you if you happened to be out for a night on the tiles yourself.
The show is clearly not going to be everyone’s cup of tea (or bottle of beer). However, Sh!tfaced Showtime deserve their place in the theatre world, offering something different indeed. A Pissedmas Carol is pure drunken fun and a fine start to the Christmas period.
Original story by: Charles Dickens
Written by: Lewis Ironside
Directed by: Katy Baker
Produced by: James Murfitt & Issy Wroe Wright
Box Office: https://leicestersquaretheatre.ticketsolve.com/shows/873602726
Booking until: 5 January 2020