Opinion: Much Ado About Something – Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare Founder Lewis Ironside On The Critical Response To Their Latest Show

Sh*t-Faced Shakespeare is the theatre company who perform the bard with one member drunk. Read more about them here. Their Much Ado About Nothing opened recently to, shall we say, quite a range of reviews. Broadway Baby gave it five stars. I gave it three stars in the Evening Standard. And this week Sam Marlowe of The Times gave it the coveted honour of zero stars, writing that "it beggars belief that anyone could be so hard-up for entertainment that they would willingly part with money to endure it."  Company founder Lewis Ironside responds below. 
Picture – the cast gives their critique of Sam Marlowe! ©Rah Petherbridge Photography.
Much Ado About Nothing is at Leicester Square Theatre until September 16. Tickets and info here.
Two stars, or not two stars… That is not only a tenuous opening to an article about a drunken improvisational Shakespeare show, but also the only review score we’ve yet to be ‘awarded’ in performing Shit-faced Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. 
Two stars. Missing. Absent. Sorely lacking from our proud, and otherwise complete, roster of praise and prejudice.
Big woop, right? This must have happened to hundreds of performers before with divisive concepts underpinning their shows? Well I’d have agreed until yesterday when a unicorn suddenly materialised on our doorstep.
Not an actual unicorn you understand, but rather, the figurative theatrical equivalent. A beautiful, glittering, bedazzled zero star review in a national newspaper. A real life ZERO STAR review. In The Times.
The review is nothing short of a brutal slating, a bloody teardown, a complete decapitation… I do not think I’ve ever been happier.
I recall as a much younger theatre maker gleefully trawling my way through the hastily photocopied sheets of the Three Weeks reviews publication during the Edinburgh Fringe festival. I was specifically seeking out a rare instance of their much coveted zero star review.
If you were lucky enough to discover one of these uncommon beasts the only responsible thing to do was to peg it across town to the offending venue and attempt to secure a ticket before the inevitable sell-out. These shows were the very life blood of my Fringe experience and without their abject awfulness I’m genuinely not sure what I’d have spent my time gleefully effusing to other fringe-goers about. The delight in knowing you’d discovered an especially dreadful show was a potent high and one to be dispensed as widely as possible.
It’s with this spirit then that I would like to thank and congratulate our dear Times reviewer Sam Marlowe for delivering our unicorn. I do legitimately feel sorry that we took an entire hour of her life away from her, but her bravery in awarding us zero from The Times puts us in genuinely exceptional company indeed. We can now stand proudly beside Resident Evil: The Final Chapter “preposterous”, Bad Santa 2 “vile, hateful overkill” and any number of AA Gill Restaurant reviews “Food blogger”… If you’re wondering why I don’t mention any other theatre or comedy shows the answer is simply that I couldn’t actually find another.
All joking aside, we’ve long been aware of the problems a show such as ours can cause for traditional review outlets. Should the arts desk send a theatre reviewer to see a show that’s one third drinking game and one third improv? Should the comedy/stand up reviewer be sent into a show that’s only scripted jokes haven’t been fresh for over 400 years? Do you just send the hungover intern who’s exactly our demographic or the grizzled old ‘arts’ correspondent who will be outraged at the venue bar’s lack of a quality Châteauneuf-du-Pape? We have broken the world of reviews!
Ultimately each outlet will write for their target audience just as we will craft our shows for ours. This disparity is to be celebrated rather than complained about. I’d much rather theatre was available for a wide audience from all backgrounds and not simply a ‘theatrical elite’ who ingest a narrow band of traditional stage reporting. So let’s not delude ourselves that a bad review in a newspaper is any more or less valuable than a thoughtful blog post written for a less broad audience.
We here at Shit-faced Shakespeare are chuffed to bits that our show provokes such divergent views and are proud that the vast majority of our reviewers and audiences love what we do.
So we’d like to raise a glass to Zero Star reviews, invite you to come and see Shit-faced Shakespeare for yourself and to encourage any budding reviewers to pull their fucking fingers out their arses and rate us at 2 stars so we can complete our collection.

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