Sophie Adnitt reviews Magnificent Bastards latest production Sh*t-Faced Showtime – Oliver With A Twist at Leicester Square Theatre.
Branching out from the inebriated Shakespearean roots they’re renowned for, Magnificent Bastard Productions (an incredible name, by the way) venture into musical theatre territory with their Sh*t-faced Showtime: Oliver With a Twist! Following a run at the Edinburgh Fringe, it rather aptly returns to the capital.
The conceit is simple; four hours before curtain up, one lucky(ish) cast member starts drinking and keeps drinking until they’re suitably, well… sh*t-faced. And since the show must go on, the cast member in question does their level best it stumble, giggle, belch and possibly vomit their way through an hour long production of Oliver!
Tonight’s victim is cast member Jessica Hern, taking on the titular role by way of Dame Maggie Smith (go with it). Several G&T’s deep, Hern makes her first entrance smirking into her gruel bowl. From there on in she’s a comedy highlight, whether declaring Bill Sikes ‘rude’ for striking Nancy, or breaking into unplanned musical numbers.
Hern’s castmates rise to the challenge and become masters of improvisation as they rally to accommodate their colleagues increasingly ridiculous additions to the script. Trying to keep some semblance of order is the evening’s MC Alan McHale, who serves as an introduction to the evening, as well as brilliantly intervening when things get a little too out of hand. He also dishes out a precautionary bucket to the front row at the top of the show, which suitably sets the tone for the evening.
What follows is sixty minutes of absolute chaos. Hern’s castmates take on the frantic task of keeping the show on track whilst she gleefully staggers from one scene to another, keeping the audience in hysterics with her tipsy asides and interjections. This is quite simply, straight up hilarious stuff – it’s simple, it’s silly, but you can’t deny that it’s very, very funny.
Sh*t-faced Showtime is admittedly an odd beast, borrowing songs left right and centre from Les Mis, Sweeney Todd and more, leaving little time for actual numbers from Oliver! itself. And yet the opening bars of each number prompt chortles of recognition from the audience, many of whom would probably identify as stagey types. Bar one millennial rewrite of ‘Who Will Buy’ the jokes of which never quite land, it’s a smartly crafted show – light and frivolous enough for a winning evening out.
As entertaining sober as it is a few drinks in, Oliver With a Twist continues to support the Sh*t-faced legacy for ridiculous, yet hilarious, performances, certain to have you helpless with laughter.