The Sh!tfaced format from Magnificent Bastard Productions has won global praise year after year, and Sh!tfaced Showtime: Alice Through the Cocktail Glass is a worthy addition to the franchise. Produced by Issy Wroe Wright and written and directed by Katy Baker, who both also star, this iteration is well-staged, well-oiled and – well – debauched! With such a successful format, there is a lot to live up to, and Baker’s creation does a worthy, if rather safe, job.
For the uninitiated, the setup involves a cast of professionally-trained performers putting on a fully produced show, but one performer every night is drunk. On this occasion, it is Christian Andrews (Tweedledum) who has consumed two beers and half a bottle of gin pre-show. Evidently a very able actor and dancer, Andrews adds some inebriated flare to all of the choreography. In Sh!tfaced tradition, the audience is given musical props to signal when they feel the sozzled actor is sobering up, and all are used. Andrews gets progressively unpredictable as the show goes on, and there are a couple of moments where the cast seem to have difficulty finding an ‘out’ from his meanderings off-script. The wheels keep turning, however, and special praise goes to Baker (the Red Queen) and Daniel Quirke (the Mad Hatter) for their quick wit, adaptability and vocal prowess. Florence Odumosu (playing Alice) is similarly competent at staying just the right side of ‘on track’, although her performance feels slightly limited by the script and the scant opportunities provided to her for improvisation.
The staging of the show is delightful, with eye-catching colours and stylisation that reflect the organised chaos of the source material and the format in general. Shadow puppets are skilfully used to comedic effect, and the live pianist (Wroe Wright) expertly communicates to the cast in chords, finding the song cues amongst the on-stage madness. The choreography is also skilfully executed, with the cast bouncing off and working around Andrews’ antics.
The show is great fun and the laughs are many and often. It is supported by good quality production values and a professional ensemble and is executed with the confidence that comes with the Sh!tfaced pedigree. But although this iteration is absolutely fine and entertaining, it does not push beyond its established crowd-pleasing comfort zone. Nevertheless, it is well worth watching, and is probably enhanced if you have a drink in your hand too!
Sh!tfaced Showtime: Alice Through the Cocktail Glass is on at Underbelly Bristo Square, Cow Barn (Venue 302)
At 22:00 until 26th August
Get your tickets here
Image: Rah Petherbridge