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The Booze and the Bard: The Shakespearean Drinking Game - Pre-Game Theatre (Fringe World 2024)

Reviewed by Paul Treasure.


There is a running gag in the TV show Upstart Crow where Shakespeare is repeatedly asked to relate the plot of what he considers his dramatic masterpiece, but the other characters think it is a hilarious comedy. With their latest offering, 'Hamlet, the Pints of Denmark', Pre-Game Theatre have given us something closer to this version, and it is side-splittingly hilarious. Shakespeare Purists might have a problem with it, but true Shakespeare lovers, and the general public, are going to love it. The concept is absurdly simple. Take a handful of actors, get one of them drunk, and get them to reenact Shakespeare. Add a wheel to introduce some random elements and a couple of cues at which the whole cast drinks, and the recipe is set.

At the performance I attended, the actor chosen to down four shots of vodka before we even started was Hannah Anderson, playing Polonius and Gertrude. Early on in the show (thanks to a spin of the wheel) she was tasked with performing like she was in Sci-Fi mode. Her decision to become some sort of tentacled beast hiding in human form was genius and a source of much comedy throughout the show.

Our Hamlet for the evening, Elizabeth Offer, gave us a fairly solid rendition of the character at the start. She was then given the task of performing the character with a Scottish accent for the rest of the show. After an apology to their Scottish ancestors, she powered through brilliantly. Oscar Sheil was delightful as Ophelia, as well as Laertes, and the sock puppets Rosencrantz and Guildenstern. Ethan Milne, as Horatio and the narrator, kept the entire show under control with the right air of chaos and a ready willingness to utilise the wheel, which seemed insistent on coming up Sci-Fi the night I attended.

Rounding out the troupe as Claudius and other characters was Cat Broom. Saddled with a South African accent (thanks to the wheel), Cat was definitely the highlight of the show. Right from the beginning they had a casual and informal air that kept the pace and energy of the show up. Of all the performers on stage, they seemed to understand the brief most of all. They rattled off their Shakespearean lines with a breezy nonchalance and were able to grab the audience and hold their attention. As the show went on, it felt like they embraced the chaos and rode it like a surfer on a wave.

At the end of the performance, it did feel like the actors were rushing through scenes to finish in time, and thus the ending did feel a little anticlimactic. It may have been better for them to have skipped scenes so that the more important scenes were given the emphasis and potential hilarity that they deserved. But as it is, the show is one of the funniest I have seen in quite a long time. Giving Shakespeare the liveliness he deserves, and an absolute treat for lovers of the Bard and those that just love a good time.

Elizabeth Offer as Hamlet. Image provided by the theatre compan.

Reviewer Note: Tickets for this review were provided by the theatre company. The Booze and the Bard will be performed at a number of venues this Fringe season, and will be Much A-Brew About Nothing from the 8th-11th Feb, rather than Hamlet: Pints of Denmark as seen by this reviewer.


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