Last week I bought my girlfriend and me a ticket to see Drunk Shakespeare in New York City. We have had experience with a similar show in Boston called Shit-faced Shakespeare so we wondered what differed and what was similar. For this review, I am going to keep it exclusive to Drunk Shakespeare, because I saw Shit-faced Shakespeare a while ago and forget some of the fundamentals that separated the two (but if I go back I will totally do its own review and make a Similar/Difference post between them)Below are my thoughts on New York’s take on Shakespeare, on booze!
So if you aren’t sure what either show entails, the basic premise of both is the actors put on a version of a Shakespeare show, sometimes filled with ad-lib, and one of the actors is drunk and drinks throughout the show. It can be a fun way to get into Shakespeare but is definitely better if you already know the show. Drunk Shakespeare offers one show and there is no way of telling (to my knowledge) what show would be performed. I knew that it would be Macbeth because I saw an audition application for it not too long ago, but other than that there was no telling what the actors would perform (if there is something or somewhere that tells you please definitely tell me where so I can correct this! I couldn’t find anything on the site).
As mentioned before actors drink and get drunk throughout the performance. The show is set in a “club society” setting known as “The Drunk Shakespeare Society” and the stage is in the round (but not around the stage) with shelves of books surrounding the audience. Not only was it wonderful to be greeted by such an enormous collection of books (which I’m pretty sure are real but I didn’t want to touch) but we were greeted by a free shot of a drink! At least I assumed it was a shot … regardless it was a fabulous way to excite the audience for a night of fun, laughter, and Shakespeare!
Pre-show was very interesting. The cast walked around the audience and interacted with them, cracking jokes and genuinely having a conversation. The show then began as one of the actors ran down the rules of the performance, inducted a “King and Queen” for the night that would influence the chosen drunk actor by choosing whether they drank more (“Off with their heads!”) or were given a break (“Pardon the fool”) if they completed a challenge to their liking. The drunk actor was then given a number of shots to start off the night as they toasted to family, friends, and the audience members with each shot they poured down. Before we knew it, they were in Scotland, right in the meeting of a Coven of witches.
What I really loved about this show was during the abridged scenes, the actors would jump in and interrupt the action to add a flavor to it, whether it be using a plethora of accents when reciting a monologue, or delving into a critical analysis of the characters mental landscape. This, for me, was enjoyable because I couldn’t tell if these interruptions were scripted or ad-libbed, which made them all the funnier and entertaining.
Not only do you get a hardy laugh, but you get genuine and brilliant Shakespearean acting within the show as well! Lady Mac’s “Out Damned Spot” monologue was beautifully executed and thought-provoking. The interactions with characters and audience members felt like a true Shakespeare performance which I believe even “big” Shakespeare performances today lack.
Don’t let Shakespeare intimidate you into not going! Whether you last read a play in college or in high school, Drunk Shakespeare is a bombastic ode to not only the Bard but to merriment and alcohol! I highly recommend that you bring friends who love and hate Shakespeare because no matter what there is always something to laugh at and drink too.