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Stacey Norris: Sh!tfaced Shakespeare – Macbeth

By | Published on Friday 30 July 2021

I feel pretty sure that lots of our readers will be very much aware of the existence of Sh!tfaced Shakespeare, purveyors of partly drink-addled bardic productions, even if they’ve not yet seen one of their Shaky stagings. If not, then it’s time you did become aware and make a date in your diary for an upcoming production.

Following the lifting of COVID induced restrictions, the company began a run of ‘Macbeth’ at London’s Leicester Square Theatre, and they’ll be there until September, so you’ve still got plenty of time to see it.

To celebrate the return to live performance of this talented bunch, I spoke to the group’s Stacey Norris.

CM: Just in case anyone doesn’t know, can you start by explaining the premise of Sh!t-faced Shakespeare shows?
SN: It’s a fully rehearsed, abridged version of a Shakespeare play where one of the actors gets drunk before they go on stage. They can derail the story in any way they choose and the sober actors have to improvise around their ramblings to make the play complete.

CM: Tell us bit about the history of the company – who started this, how, and why?
SN: The concept was created by Rev Lewis Ironside and Cpt Chris Snelson. They were running the theatre tent at Secret Garden Party in 2010 and needed to come up with hours and hours of material. They had this idea whilst drunk and immediately dismissed it; but they were desperate so they gave it a go. It worked and we have been growing ever since then. The show has been performed all over the UK, USA and Australia and sold around 500,000 tickets!

CM: How and when did you personally become involved and what attracted you it?
SN: It was the first job I auditioned for out of drama school. I absolutely love performing Shakespeare and thought this looked like fun. To be honest, once I was offered the job I wasn’t sure whether to accept it, but I am so glad I did. I have been with the show for ten years and now direct and produce as well as perform.

CM: So, you’re currently doing ‘Macbeth’, which is interesting, given it’s a gory tragedy. Do you think the Sh!t-faced treatment works better with tragedies or comedies? Or does it not matter?
SN: We all talk about this one a lot and the cast are quite divided about it. The comedies already have so much to play on without a drunk actor – which doubles the fun. The stakes are much higher in a tragedy, it can really change the entire plot and it’s hilarious to see the sober actors being derailed by a drunk when they are trying to be brooding and serious.

Last week, whilst telling Macbeth his wife was dead, the drunk also told him she was having an affair. This was right before he was about to do a very famous and dramatic speech. So seeing the sober actor navigate that information was a LOT of fun.

CM: What’s it like being the drunk person, compared to being one of the not-drunk people? Does it feel easier or harder?
SN: It’s great being the drunk actor, it feels very liberating and if you are someone that likes being ‘naughty’ it’s perfect! I would say being sober is the harder job because you really have to be on it every night to respond quickly to the drunk’s comments / requests / orders / ramblings.

CM: Let’s talk about you a bit more, now? How did you end up performing? Is it a career you always wanted to pursue?
SN: I always loved drama at school but didn’t know ‘drama school’ existed and certainly didn’t think acting was a possibility for me. Funnily enough, I wanted to be a journalist and I have an English degree from Lancaster University. Whilst there, I was heavily involved with the theatre society and decided I could only see myself acting. I applied for drama schools, took a postgraduate course and have been acting ever since.

CM: What aims or ambitions do you have for the future?
SN: Sh!tfaced is like a family to me and it is different every night, so it always keeps me on my toes. Going to work everyday with the show is an absolute joy and long may it continue. I get to do lots of other jobs alongside Sh!tfaced and would like to expand my directing CV and gain some more TV credits.

CM: The last year has been difficult for the performing world, of course: how have you gone on in these pandemic times and how did you get through lockdown?
SN: I had a baby in February 2020 so I was getting to know her in lockdown. I was supposed to go back to the show in June, so I actually got to spend a lot more time with her than I would have done and I am very grateful for that. I also got two TV jobs in lockdown, one with my daughter which was an incredible experience to share. I would say I was one of the lucky ones.

CM: What’s it like to be back out there?
SN: It feels incredible to be doing live theatre again. It has been such a tough year for the theatre industry and I think people are looking to have some carefree silliness in their lives again! Being back in the rehearsal room was amazing! Everyone is so grateful to be working and back doing what we love.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
NS: We are performing at The Warren On The Beach from 23-30 Aug, and we are doing another UK tour from 30 Sep-28 Nov, this time with Sh!t-faced Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo & Juliet’. This is one of my favourite shows of ours and I’m excited to perform in some of the most beautiful theatres we have in the UK! The shows in the USA are opening up again and we have some exciting plans for the new year, so keep your eyes peeled.

Sh!t-Faced Shakespeare’s ‘MacBeth is on at Leicester Square Theatre until 11 Sep. See the venue website here for details and to book tickets.