Brighton Fringe 2015
Magnificent Bastard produce a very funny performance of The Two Gentlemen of Verona, which is then thrown into disarray by a shit-faced Proteus. Strong and quick-witted improvisers carry the show forward and cast secrets are revealed to the amusement of the audience.
The concept of the show is simple – the cast attempt to perform an authentic Shakespeare play while one of the performers is, well, shit-faced. Tonight’s show is the Two Gentlemen of Verona. The compere for the evening opens by showing us how much tonight’s shit-faced cast member has had to drink – a vast amount, consisting of (amongst others) Stella, Guinness, Gin & Tonic and a bottle of Pinot Grigio.
Two audience members are given instruments – one a horn, one a gong. At any point they can use these instruments to call for the drunken performer to take another drink. The compere can at any point use his air horn to stop the show if it looks like the performers or audience are in any kind of danger – be it moral or physical. A timer was turned over, indicating the hour over which the show will take place.
The set is impressive. A simple three-arch design with a curtain behind it sets the scene for the play. Slowed down instrumental string versions of modern songs are played between scenes, and clever lighting changes are used to change the atmosphere at key moments. The cast are adorned in (often OTT) Elizabethan garb and look fantastic. Some costumes have additional accessories, the reveal of at least one of which had many of the audience in hysterics.
The show opens with a dance sequence to a string version of Joy Division’s ‘Love Will Keep Us Alive’, and as soon as the dance finishes, the drunken cast member stumbles and the sound of the gong is heard. “Oh fuck off!” screams the drunken Proteus.
The cast perform a vibrant and very funny version of the Two Gentlemen of Verona, and there are moments of hilarity as they attempt to stay on script while the drunken Proteus constantly breaks character and banters with the audience. The play is well produced and entertaining even without the drunken antics, and so at times these elements clashed. The audience also seemed to be in a drunken bank-holiday weekend spirit, meaning that they became raucous at times, and credit should be given to the compere for tackling the main culprits head-on.
Proteus provided many entertaining moments by both taking on audience members, and revealing cast in-jokes. He was jovially booed when revealing that the cast member playing Julia is the only single member of the team, and his cheeky demeanour saved him when describing an audience member as “very handsome in a Brighton way”. The improvised elements of the play were sharp, and the cast were quick to shut Proteus down when he risked becoming overbearing. The other cast members also bantered with the audience, and there was some interaction when an audience member was pulled on stage to play the part of Crab.
There was an audible fear within the audience when Proteus entered a scene with sword in hand, and despite the compere blowing his horn, the cast had to pin Proteus down to remove the weapon from him. What followed was a fight over a lollipop that inevitably turned into a spitting competition. The show then closed on a Shakespearean verse asking us to follow the company on Facebook and Twitter.
A full house at the Warren was laughing heartily throughout. Both my friend and I shared the view that we would have liked to have seen the rehearsed version of the show without the shit-faced performer, which is a compliment to company. We also ruminated on whether or not the show would have been even funnier had we been drunk ourselves, as most of the audience seemed to be in on the fun too.
The premise of the show is clear from the outset, and it doesn’t fail to deliver. The performance is slick and the experience of the cast is clear to see. Strong production values mean that the audience leaves feeling that they have had the full theatre experience, and no-one leaves feeling short-changed.