August is nearly here and with it another cohort of bright young things will head to Edinburgh to try their luck amongst 25,000 other acts at the Fringe festival. Royal Mile will soon be crammed once more with hundreds of costumed actors touting their wares and with so many companies vying for attention standing out is always going to be the biggest challenge for aspiring young actors.
Every successful Fringe show has a killer hook and the one chosen by Magnificent Bastard isn’t the most sophisticated concept… but it has proved very popular. They’ve been performing serious Shakespeare plays with one inebriated cast-member in their hit show Shit-faced Shakespeare since 2012, racking up an impressive run of sell-out Edinburgh seasons. This year they’re back with a new musical offering, riffing of their successful formula; each night a different member of the cast gets completely plastered before the show starts.
Frankly, this is extremely risky. Much depends on whether the drunk in question will be funny, or whether they will simply be embarrassing. The key to their success is that every member of the cast is very talented and completely unflappable. Although the story in Shit-faced Showtime is completely uninteresting the show songs are performed with perfect timing, pitch and natty dance moves, interrupted only by the various antics of the one drunk cast member.
On the night of this review the drunk (Joshua Diffley) was incredibly charming. Although plainly unable to see straight he still managed to make good jokes ‘this is theatre, use your imaginations’ and practised such great comic timing it was tempting to think that he might have been hamming it up a bit. Inevitably things got wild and he was half naked by the end but there was never a fear that he would completely lose control. It was also intriguing to wonder what would have happened if another cast member had been the drunk one. Would it have been a completely different evening?
Shit-faced show time was seamlessly stitched together by the Compere, Dylan Townley who kept the piece flowing if it threatened to fall flat by making an ironic comment or raising any eyebrow at the audience. He and the rest of the cast reacted instantly to whatever Diffley did, obeying the most important rule of improv; always say yes! He also kept the flow of the piece by ensuring the audience had control over the drunk’s alcohol intake. As he handed out a recorder which could be played for another drink he said ‘have you ever blown in public before?’ and the scene was set. Not exactly Shakespeare, but very good fun.