What happens when you throw a drunk actor onto the stage...

Sh*t-faced Shakespeare_ Romeo and Juliet 12 © Rah PetherbridgeSh*t-faced Shakespeare_ Romeo and Juliet 12 © Rah Petherbridge
Sh*t-faced Shakespeare_ Romeo and Juliet 12 © Rah Petherbridge
Shakespeare with a carefully-controlled injection of alcohol is doing the rounds as Sh!t-faced Shakespeare head out on tour with Macbeth as you will never have seen him before. They play Portsmouth’s New Theatre Royal on October 20 and Horsham’s Capitol on October 27.

As Stacey Norris, from the company, explains: “We do a fully rehearsed production of Macbeth which has been cut down to about an hour and a half, but is a serious production, fully rehearsed and then we add a drunk actor into the mix. We used to do it selecting the drunk actor randomly but it's far better to know what is coming up so we now have a rota for who has to get drunk. The tour is fairly sporadic. We started in late September and we're touring through until the end of November and that means that someone might have to be drunk three times during that time. It's really not full on. We look after our actors and we make sure that they are OK. We look after their livers. So maybe they get drunk three times in two months but I suspect the average Joe will probably get drunk a lot more than that... though they don't necessarily do it in public!

“Obviously we're putting alcohol in someone's system but we're very careful. It has been a long time since we've had any accidents and we also tend to draw on the same people for the company. We have a big network of people that we work with, and we have worked with a lot of them for ten years or so now. We're very aware of how much alcohol is a good amount for them, the right amount to get them into a happy upbeat space and doesn't leave them feeling sick or awful.

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“We have got to understand everyone's level which is different. We give them a big dinner beforehand and we do it slowly and then we have a water hour afterwards for a minimum of an hour. With the drinking beforehand, it's a slow process and it's just as if they were down the pub with friends. We play games. We listen to music. We make it as much fun as we possibly can. The whole point is that it is all about play. We all like to take the mickey out of each other and it's just a really fun atmosphere. We're not getting smashed. We don't want them falling asleep. We just want them to be forgetting lines and losing their inhibitions to some extent. We don't want them feeling tired or sick or dreadful and we know what works and doesn't work for some people. Our artistic director is banned from drinking whisky, for instance. We know whisky just doesn’t work for him. The drunk actor forgets their inhibitions but the compere looks after them. If they're about to say something on stage that they wouldn't want to say or if they're about to do something that is dangerous, the compere is there to stop that happening. It's all about controlled chaos. It's all about the support. We are a group of great friends. We have to be. We are a really close-knit team that completely look after each other and care for each other deeply. We have rehearsed Macbeth but if it is Macbeth himself getting drunk, then it might be a Macbeth where Macbeth decides he doesn't want to die and we have to go with that. I would say it’s probably about 50/50 the script and improvisation.”