Five drinks, five categories, five heroes of hooch. The “Thinking Drinkers” Tom and Ben invite their audience on a tasting like no other in order to impart some wisdom, entertain with their humour and impart their mantra: ‘drink less, drink better’.
Previously described as ‘the best value for money’ (Scotsman), the audience cannot help but be satisfied with the fulfilment of the promise of five free drinks during the show. We start with a bitter, move on to a fruity gin (which is drunk neat), then a non-whisky-drinker-friendly single malt, a sipping rum and finally the liqueur Grand Marnier. Each beverage is accompanied by the fascinating stories of a hero such as Amelia Earhart, Albert Einstein, Napoleon Bonaparte or Louise Weber (French can-can dancer and star of the Moulin Rouge). Their relationship with booze is explained so that the experience of tasting each sample is enhanced by historical anecdotes alongside some truly terrible puns. Who knew, for instance, that so many historical figures had been posthumously, literally pickled in drink? Between each category, the performers strip and don a new outfit appropriate to the next topic and series of stories. This structure works well as it allows time for the new drinks to be distributed, as the actors get dressed. The hour flies by as we are regaled with fascinating tales of pirates, scientists, astronauts and dancers.
“Truly delivers on its promise of learning, laughter and free drinks!”
Tom and Ben are funny. They have an easy rapport with each other and with the audience. There are only a few moments when the more convoluted of jokes or niche puns are met with awkward titters from the audience and followed by even more awkward ‘rehearsed’ discussion from the performers who appear to break from the script and dissuade each other from mentioning certain topics or using particular jokes. Unfortunately, this formula is far from new and borders on being irritating rather than humorous. The tone of the production never veers from friendly, casual banter and the pub-joke puns roll on unrelentingly. However, I can’t help but think that this show really belongs in a more intimate setting than the end-on layout that Cowbarn (Underbelly) allowed. I wanted to be in a cosy pub, closer to our hosts, connoisseurs and guides to the deeds of alcohol lovers past, rather than closed off as part of the audience, only half-filling the auditorium.
The performance ends the way it began with a song/pub chant. The audience, unfortunately not quite scrambled enough at this point to join in raucously (perhaps one more drink would have done it), so Ben and Tom gallantly hold the fort alone. This show truly delivers on its promise of learning, laughter and free drinks and is a hugely enjoyable experience, which would only be improved in a more intimate, relaxed setting to match the tone of the production.