The time has come for another work of chaos in the Shit-Faced Showtime series, and on this occasion they’re tackling a British institution: A Christmas Carol. The premise is delightfully simple and there’s a clue in the title: a small cluster of performers shorten a classic story to fit into an hour, but with an unusual twist – one of them is spectacularly trollied.
Our compere for the evening is none other than Charles Dickens himself (back from the dead for the occasion), and he begins by quelling any of the health and safety concerns that I’m sure many members of the conscientious do-gooder audience may be thinking, the main one being: is this dangerous? Well, yes, sort of, but in a very controlled way – bucket at the corner of the stage, the chosen actor being well aware of their limits, surrounded by supportive and caring friends on stage, etc. Audience participation means that we can top up their blood alcohol level with a few more drinks mid-performance, so we physically watch as another couple of pints are consumed – this is like your favourite peer-pressure pub on a Friday night, Dickensian style.
Our drunk for the evening was Katy Baker, who stepped into a variety of roles and – though she did at one point nearly topple off the stage – did a fantastic job of remembering a big chunk of the script. One of my favourite things about the Shit-Faced Showtime series is watching the true personality of the drunken actor come out on stage – it’s very difficult to withhold who you truly are when you’re pissed as a fart, and it makes the whole thing even more likeable. Baker has the kind of personality you want in every friendship group, and her drunkenness transformed the serious tale into an energetic, foul-mouthed, knicker-flashing, lap dancing phenomenon of laughter.
Despite doing a noble job of trying to stick to the script, the story is invariably lost throughout the hour’s performance as it takes various drunken off-piste twists and turns. This is all part of the plan, and those who are looking for a strict retelling of Scrooge’s journey of enlightenment should relax their expectations, as there are lots of unplanned interruptions, surprises and interjections from the ever-watching compere.
The only issue is that 60 minutes just doesn’t feel long enough. By the time you get your head around how utterly bonkers it is, an hour has come to a close and we are sadly being wrenched away from our seats (no doubt whilst the drunk actor is being thrust towards a 2 litre bottle of Evian). Perhaps this is purposeful in order to keep momentum of the drunkenness, but the ending sadly feels quite rushed – the audience definitely wanted more.
The brand that the Magnificent Bastards have created themselves is, in itself, a fantastic piece of PR. As a theatre company they possess a magnificent grasp of what humour truly is, and are unapologetically proud of their light-hearted and ‘fuck it’ attitude to entertainment and storytelling. They tick all of the entertainment boxes and manage to transform classic shows into modern chaotic masterpieces, equipped with a rattling empty drinks trolley. Shows like this are an extremely important reminder to embrace improvisation and stop taking things so bloody seriously.
Reviewed by Laura Evans
Photo: Rah Petherbrdige
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