SHAKESPEARE purists will no doubt turn up their noses at the thought of this show – a slimmed-down version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream performed by four entirely sober actors and one exceedingly drunk one.
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But the spoilsports should consider this: Shakespeare intended his play to be a comedy, and I doubt it has ever made an audience laugh as long or as loud as it does here, while being battered to within an inch of its life by the Tax Deductible Theatre Company.
To mitigate against liver cirrhosis, pancreatitis and other nasties associated with regular binge drinking, the cast members take it in turns to get hammered, and there are two different casts, appearing on alternate nights. For the performance I saw, Saul Marron, playing Demetrius, was the inebriated one, consuming most of a bottle of vodka before the show and then being forced to down several pints of lager on top of that by people in the front row, who were invited to bang gongs or blow whistles when they thought he might be in danger of sobering up.
Marron proved an extremely entertaining drunk, hitting on audience members and cast members alike, belching with impeccable comic timing and displaying boundless enthusiasm for the music of Shabba Ranks and Inner Circle.
He was at his funniest, however, when he stopped goofing around and tried to deliver his lines properly, inadvertently mangling some of the Bard’s best writing while maintaining a look of steely concentration. On one occasion he actually seemed to be on the verge of getting through a complete exchange with Helena (the long-suffering Sarah-Louise Porteous) without corpsing, slurring his words or forgetting his lines, only to be interrupted at the last minute by the man with the gong.
“No!” he shouted, “that wush the firsht bloody-ruddy thing I’ve got out properly all night!”
“Exactly,” said the man with the gong. “Now drink.”
Until 27 August. Today 10:20pm.