This is a sponsored article on behalf of Sh!tfaced Shakespeare.
With Shakespeare currently our greatest cultural export after One Direction, it is not surprising to see a plethora of productions of the Bard's work coming out to celebrate the 400th anniversary of his passing. Those looking for a novel, if rather juvenile, take on Ol' Shakey should check out Sh!t-faced Shakespeare: their appropriation of fantasy love story Midsummer Night’s Dream (currently playing at Leicester Square Theatre) is a hoot.
The gimmick here is simple: every night, one of the cast spends four hours before the show getting slowly pickled on their poison of choice before joining their fellow actors for an hour-ish of the chosen Shakespeare play. From an audience perspective, this experience is markedly better if one is also as drunk as the proverbial and, while achieving this state does not require a detailed how-to, we thought we should point out how one should proceed once inebriation sets in.
Keep an eye on the time before you get there. This is a show best viewed through rosé-tinted glasses, and there may be a a temptation to indulge yourself at one of the local drinking establishments beforehand. That's no excuse, though, for a last-minute non-appearance. You're not Glenn Close, you know.
Don't bring your own hip flask. Even if you're the kind that likes a quick nip before, after and throughout a show, leave the pocket bucket at home. If you really need one, Sh!tfaced Shakespeare sell a dandy silver one in the lobby as part of their Merchandise Of Venice range.
Leave the social media apps alone. Given the handsome nature of the Sh!tfaced Shakespeare cast (especially through beer goggles), it may be tempting to tweet out a few pics. Our advice is to resist temptation, as who knows what else you may end up posting; recent days have seen Twitter users controversially re-enacting the assassination of Osama Bin Laden and comparing the Northern Irish to... oh we're not even going there while one sportsman celebrating this week will now be known less for his impressive record-breaking feats than for his pithy 2011 rejoinder of "Chat Shit Get Banged". Focus less on the 140 characters on your screen and more on the five on stage.
Switch off your phone. To be clear, this is not because of the ridiculous Cumberphone campaign. Top tip, Cumberphoners: if you really do want people to be respectful in theatres, don't name your project something which will instantly cause people to whip out their phones so they can have a Google or share a giggle. No, you should take your phone and turn it off because no one wants to accidentally bum-dial their nearest and weariest during an adult show. And especially not this one when every second has the potential to bring new hilarity.
Find an aisle seat. The Leicester Square Theatre's main stage sits around 400 people but, due to its arrangement of very long rows, there are only about 30 aisle seats. As trips to the bathroom and/or the bar are likely to occur at some point during proceedings, pick your pew wisely. The troupe do have a vomit bucket but that's for the use of their own pissed dramatis persona; make your own arrangements as you see fit and be a kind neighbour.
Keep your hands where we can see them. Google Maps thinks that this venue is "an intimate theatre" which, a few hundred meters away in Soho, has a slightly different meaning. No matter the hotness of the cast and how aroused the drink makes you, the show is about getting your Bard on, not a hard-on. Or a wide-on. Hey, we don’t judge.
Leave the drugs at home. If the sight of an utterly pissed trained actor attempting to remember lines while wobbling around unsteady on their feet, physically and verbally abusing their fellow cast members and flirting with the front row isn't trippy enough, there's the sound of audience members variously trying to play a trumpet like an asthmatic Louis Armstrong or hit a gong whenever the nominated drunkard appears to be sobering up. Add to that the spectacle of an eagle-eyed host whose night is taken up keeping proceedings roughly on track, mopping up spilt booze and praying that tonight is not the night when the Health & Safety Inspectorate make an unannounced visit.
Keep your mouth shut (when not drinking). Yes, yes, Shakespeare married Anne Hathaway but not the Hollywood star, and yes, this show is (in a good way) less about the drama and more about the comedy. This we know. Do not run up on stage and slur out your words like a Sheridan Smith copycat. Plug that gap in your face instead with a tipple and keep those amazing thoughts to yourself at least until the lights go up.
By Franco Milazzo
Sh!t-faced Shakespeare's Midsummer Night's Dream continues until 11 June at Leicester Square Theatre, 6 Leicester Place, WC2H 7BX. Tickets are £18.50-£20.50. More information can be found on the Leicester Square Theatre website.