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BOOZE AND THE BARD @ The Belgian Beer Café gets 8/10


Booze and the Bard
@ The Belgian Beer Café
Wednesday, January 26, 2022

8/10

Nestled in the courtyard of the Belgium Beer Café is the charming and small La Roi stage. An assortment of plastic crowns, foam swords, and fur coats serve as the actors’ playground, as they take the audience through one of Shakespeare’s classics.

To add a bit of flavour to these beloved plays, one of the five cast members is chosen to get drunk on stage each night. Meanwhile, the rest of the cast is playing a game to drink whenever something specific happens onstage, and they encourage the audience to do the same. Basically: it is a Shakespearean drinking game.

And if that isn’t chaotic enough, an improviser’s wheel of chance is spun whenever a scene is going “too well.” This can mean a change as small as one of the character’s accents or something fundamental like a genre or an actor’s goal in the scene. On the night of the review, the audience was treated to a southern Lady Macbeth, a ‘film noir’ King Duncan haunting and a Macduff on a desperate quest for a high-five.

Their scripts perfectly balance the famous Shakespearean soliloquies and the to-the-point Australian slang. The dramatic final fight in Macbeth was interrupted by Macduff crying “C-Section Bitch!” and stopping for a game of flip the beer cup. For those who have not dusted off the classics since high school, or perhaps had too many drinks, the complex two and a half hour tragedies have been stripped down to an hour and fifteen minutes. All the major plot points are spelt out in plain English. So, there will be none of the usual plot summaries in the program or Wikipedia research in the intermission that usually goes with classic literature.

The cast felt like a well-oiled group of improvisers, quick thinking and ready to go along with mostly anything. The spontaneity and chaos that came with a drunk crew member and a wheel of chance as director, was managed and cultivated extremely well. Rather than just descending into base drunken antics, the script and plot were the backbone of this production, well-devised and full of humour. The randomness served to add a layer of honesty and energy to the plot rather than to distract from it.

Banquo, played by Sarah Lewis, was a standout on the night, accompanied by her wonderful balloon son, Fleance. The actor relaxed and sure presence allowed the meaning of the Shakespearean texts to shine through, and she was a real pleasure to watch.

The only thing to pick was perhaps a lack of drama in the play’s finale and the abruptness of the end. The play felt a little rushed in an hour and fifteen minutes and skipped over a couple of good scenes. The drama and tension of the play were sacrificed for the humour, which is not necessarily a bad thing, just different to what a seasoned Shakespeare watcher would come to expect.

The audience is in for a lighthearted night full of drinks and wordplay. Just how Shakespeare would have wanted a weekend spent.

For a fun night out and the simple yet golden premise of turning classic theatre into a drinking game, Booze and the Bard receives an 8 out of 10.

NINA DAKIN

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