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Sh!t-faced Showtime

Review – Shit-faced Showtime: Oliver with a Twist at Leicester Square Theatre

Sophie Thomas
Sophie Thomas

In a time where the course of British politics is often unpredictable, watching a Golden Age musical adapted to star an alcohol-fuelled cast member where anything can happen felt like turning on the television to see parliamentary mayhem unfold. Shit-faced Showtime productions have been performed around the world for the last nine years, with the company's latest production featuring a rotating cast of seven performers take on Oliver Twist helped by a few shots of Dutch courage.

The programme states one actor is "genuinely, highly inebriated (in the show) having spent the last four hours slowly getting drunk." We're reminded of this time and time again by the compère (Katy Baker), introducing audiences to the show and what we could see over the next 50 minutes. Giving a couple of front-row audience members a musical instrument to orchestrate when they would want the chosen performer to drink, there's no denying this show revolves around a tipple or two.   

Kept in the dark about which actor would be performing drunk, the curtains finally opened to the cast taking to the stage for the first time. It quickly became apparent that the titular role (played by Issy Wright) was the intoxicated performer, turning the young orphan into a drunk, teetering mess.

In some scenes, it was clear that Wright was struggling, especially in fast-paced dance sequences cleverly choreographed by Holly Hughes to show any ill-footed mistake. However, there's no denying the camaraderie between all cast members to support the drunken actor whilst making sure that the show carries on saves the performance from becoming a potential disaster.

With the show directed to allow each performer off-stage time, the thrill of seeing someone drunk on stage is taken away. Gone for minutes at a time, audiences are sometimes left watching an amateurish, sober adaptation of Oliver Twist with extra songs from Les Miserables and The King and I thrown in, instead of seeing the intoxicated actor rely on their muscle memory to get through the show.

Blending improvisation and scripted comedy, cast members are quick-witted to get out of a sticky situation on stage. Even though Oliver was the central actor in this particular performance, Nick Moore and Beth Rowe as Fagin and Nancy respectively delivered stellar performances and called back to earlier mess ups on stage to bring the Dickensian tale into 2019. Piano accompaniment by Moore and the use of umbrellas and a dog on wheels made the show feel rough and ready, but just right for the light-hearted production that theatregoers had come to see.   

After 50 minutes, the show ends with each cast member and the compère (whether they were the intoxicated performer or not) cracking a can open and drinking it, with the audience finishing their drinks with the cast. It may not be the best production you'll ever see, but you'll struggle to find a show that's anywhere near as odd and exciting.

Shit-faced Showtime: Oliver with a Twist is at Leicester Square Theatre until 12th April 2019.

Photo credit: Rah Petherbridge

Originally published on

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