Not content with tackling The Merchant of Venice, the Shit-faced Shakespeare team returns to Leicester Square Theatre once again, this time taking on one of the Bard’s most famous works: Romeo & Juliet.
In fair Verona, where we lay our scene, Juliet (played by Beth-Louise Priestley) has drunk a bottle of Becks and just over half a bottle of gin; she is hammered. It takes a little while for this to become apparent, as she is the last one to grace the stage – as I’ve said on previous occasions, this ramps up the anticipation, plus it also allows at least some of the play to be powered through and not stall it in the first scene! Priestley’s power of line retention is marvellous, rattling off Juliet’s famous speeches in between fits of giggles – and insisting on being allowed to finish them despite attempts to move the show on.
Obviously this play is a tragedy, and usually the whole thing is played in quite a sombre, measured way (last year’s production at the Globe, of course, bucked this trend) – however with this being Shit-faced Shakespeare (a smaller cast, including a drunk, and a limited running time) the tone is slightly different. Though purists seem to refuse to acknowledge it, Shakespeare’s work is littered with bawdy jokes & innuendos, and this aspect is riotously played up in this version of the play (adapted by Lewis Ironside). Particularly enjoyable is Christopher Lane’s camp father Capulet and Saul Marron getting stuck into Mercutio’s wordplay.
So Romeo and Juliet meet at a Capulet party, instantly falling in love and agreeing to marry the next day – though following the marriage, Juliet’s cousin Tybalt kills Romeo’s friend Mercutio, and Romeo takes revenge by killing Tybalt. He’s banished, and Juliet is set up with Paris by her father in a bid to cheer her up. In order to get out of this bigamous marriage, Juliet takes a potion that makes her appear dead, and Friar Laurence agrees to send a message to Romeo so he will come and collect her from the tomb. The message doesn’t reach him, so Romeo hears only of Juliet’s death, buying a poison which he will take in the tomb so he can die by her side. However, drunk Juliet realises she just has narcolepsy and wakes up in time for Romeo to run off with her! The Montagues & Capulets make a truce anyway, and are thrilled by the runaway couple’s relationship.
Not your traditional Romeo & Juliet, by any means! I’m not sure I’ll get over the sight of an ecstatic Juliet stood at the altar, pint in hand and ready to get married. All the more impressive was her ability to keep the pint glass upright and not spill any drink as the married couple enthusiastically embraced! She’s also a bit of a daredevil, leaning out of her balcony to try and touch a cherub hanging from the ceiling (kudos to Alex Stevenson’s set design here) – and I’ll never forget “Lady School”, where ladies have to go so they know how to talk to men. A commendable performance from Beth-Louise Priestley, and well done to Richard Hughes opposite her as Romeo, and Stacey Norris on MC duties for the night.
My verdict? A Romeo & Juliet like no other, made all the more unpredictable with the inclusion of alcohol – you’ve not lived until you’ve seen Juliet swigging a pint at the altar!
Shit-faced Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet runs at the Leicester Square Theatre until 1 September 2018. Tickets are available online or from the box office.