REVIEW: Shit-Faced Showtime: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz (Leicester Square Theatre) ★★★★
Magnificent Bastard Productions formed in 2010 to create unexpected and unpredictable theatre. Since then, their Shit-Faced Shakespeare productions are performed across the UK and USA in Boston, Atlanta, Austin and Minnesota. Selling out at Edinburgh and Brighton Fringes each year, expanded to include Shit-Faced Showtime in 2015. Showtime’s latest offering is their take on well-loved children’s tale The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz. Stumbling down the Yellow Brick Road, Magnificent Bastard’s production features songs from The Wizard of Oz, The Wiz and Wicked in true Shit-Faced tradition- each night one of the actors is inexplicably out-of-their-heads drunk!
At this performance David Ellis compered the evening, acting as host and keeping an eye on our drunk actor. Dorothy was played by Issy Wroe Wright, Glinda and the Lion were played by Dora Rubinstein, The Witch and Wizard were both played by Nick House, Tin Man by Tom Tilley and our drunken actor for the evening Alan McHale playing the Scarecrow. To begin the performance Ellis greeted the audience and explained how the Shit-Faced actors prepare for each performance. All the actors arrive four hours ahead of the performance and one of them gets shit-faced. He then revealed how much the drunken actor that night had consumed- two bottles of fancy Barefoot pinot!
As soon as the cast took the stage it was plainly obvious who the inebriated performer was. Limbs flailing and behind everyone else in the dance numbers, Alan McHale was hilarious and brilliant. During Wicked’s No One Morns The Wicked at the top of the show, he decided to belt the top harmony which was brave and made the audience warm to him immediately. Who hasn’t belted the top harmony in that song, right?! Well done, sir! The rest of his performance was just as fun, his Tin Man suddenly coming out and then later forgetting he was gay and professing his love to Dorothy telling the audience “No, Alan is gay… the Tin man is STRAIGHT!” Drinking throughout the performance, it was a joy to see McHale break conventional theatre practices and speak directly to the audience as both character and actor, unapologetically forgetting lines and lyrics and hilariously creating an alternate Oz story we haven’t seen before… and probably never will again!
The other members of the cast coped exceptionally well with McHale’s pissed performance, accepting all McHale’s drunken “offers” no matter how absurd. As Dorothy, Issy Wroe Wright’s sweet singing voice handled The Wizard Of Oz standard Somewhere Over The Rainbow with aplomb. Dora Rubinstein’s sultry soprano vocal shone during No One Morns The Wicked as Glinda and was a fun Lion accompanying the group to the Emerald City, cleverly drawn as green wine bottles on the backdrop. In dual roles Nick House played The Wicked Witch (in a blond wig and heels) and The Wizard, with a very convincing Australian accent and Tom Tilley played a fun robot-dancing Tin Man.
Magnificent Bastard Productions Shit-Faced Showtime: The Wonderful Wizard Of Oz is an extremely fun night out. Something a little different from the traditional theatre we’ve all seen before. This wonderful Fringe show is showing in London for a limited time at the Leicester Square Theatre playing Sundays from 2-23 July. Travel Over The Rainbow with Dorothy, Toto and the gang one more time and experience an Oz you’ve never seen before!
Reviewed by Stuart James
Photo: Rah Petherbridge Photography