From the company that brought us ‘Shit-faced Shakespeare’ comes ‘Oliver With A Twist’ – the twist being that Oliver is completely, disgracefully, jazz-handedly drunk.
The premise is simple: one actor is drunk, while the rest of the cast attempt to carry on as normal. It’s not often that an audience get to participate in the atmosphere of their messiest night out with their friends without actually being part of the mess. We watch with amusement, and some degree of horror, as the night’s drunk tries their best to keep up, and (obviously) fails. Taking pauses to kiss their co-stars, lobbing apples into the audience, making sex jokes out of – well – everything, all contributes to the sense that the actor is going to savagely regret this come sobriety.
It feels out of place to comment on the quality of such a show, given that its premise is fundamentally undignified and does not focus on delivering A-list performances. Yet ‘Oliver’ feels a little too rough around the edges. Its musical numbers are patched together, it’s driven by very little dialogue, and as such it seems the show is saved by the drunken element rather than complemented by it. Nevertheless, the atmosphere of the show is lovely – having all been in the drunk’s place, the cast is very supportive of their co-star as they stumble through complicated dance routines and burp in time to the music. The audience is roped in as well – we’re given musical instruments to signal a drink break if we feel the drunk is sobering up too much, and one unfortunate person is handed a bucket with the simple instructions of “catch as much as you can” – all of which contributes to the feeling that we’re all in this together.
Much credit must be given to the sober cast for singing to their co-star’s tune. All classically trained actors, it is well within their skillset to improvise alongside drunken antics. On this particular night, this included a running gag about jazz apples, freestyle rapping, and using chorizo sausages in a sword fight.
It is perhaps unfair to compare ‘Oliver’ to the original Shakespeare version of this show. However, this iteration of the formula turns a hilarious premise into something of a worn-out joke. The great thing about the Shakespeare version is the fact that the cast are still trying to do quite well, whereas the cast of ‘Oliver’ already know that it won’t go well. Shakespeare’s plays are also, at their core, high-quality theatre, and so to disgrace them with inebriation channels the ridiculous spirit of the Bard. Had I not seen the Shakespeare version, I would probably have left the venue roaring with laughter and pleased with my night out. As it is, I have seen the Shakespeare, and though I did have a good time, I was ultimately quite disappointed.
Shit-faced Showtime runs until the 27th of August – https://tickets.edfringe.com/whats-on/shit-faced-showtime-oliver-with-a-twist