Reviews Edinburgh Published 24 August 2011


Pleasance Courtyard ⋄ 3rd - 28th August 2011

A languid shot of fringe spirit.

Daniel B. Yates

Let's drink to when it's over. Let's drink to when we meet.

“We all like a drink” goes the premise of this languorous liquored show, “but while, like some kind of tipsy Ummah the drunken body connects us – the experience is not quite the same for everybody”.  From the squawking of hen-dos, to the drizzle-eyed thump of the club toilets, to the mother of four quietly drinking at home, Thirsty examines the reasons for women drinking beyond the patriarchal tabloid discourses of daemon fishnetted froth-mouthed ladettes who would binge-puke morality into the sinkhole of history for the price of a red bull and advocaat; choosing instead to paint a disquieteningly limpid portrait of drunken women, which is clever, tender, and unobtrusively sad.

From the three echt toilet cubicles that fill the stage, simply, and with a stealthy finesse, a picture emerges of an enduring and bittersweet friendship, in which an unspoken kind of love is sanded-down of any sentimentality, and underplayed for its directionlessness and intermittence, all the while remaining eyes-closed-forever-and-powerfully true. The spirit of this sisterliness is such that together, with help from drunken voicemails left by the public, they make a gentle exploratory attempt to get into the shoes of an unknown teenager who, facing a lonely city and a difficult time, drinks herself away.

If this was visual art: there is a firm impressionistic brush to this performance, in which the daubs are left to relationally shine. If this were culinary art: every time it appears like something might be being undercooked, it suddenly begins to gel, and so, like a trifle, the simple layers build and hold, producing something simple and sweet. Jemma, the more robust of the pair, exudes a likeability so sheer and true that it becomes in itself compelling; a natural warmth of such glow a cat could fall asleep in front of it. More austere, Kylie adds the sobriety, and in a nice touch the score’s beard-chic composer occupies the final stall stacked with twee instruments, playing soft keys in a plain filmic refrain, sounding like Yann Tierson remixed by Jamie XX, looking like something Alex Horne dreamed.

The opening drinking yarns don’t yield as many laughs as they might, which perhaps overburdens the rest of the piece with pathos.  However this is pathos acutely felt; not only with a karaoke rendition of Bonnie Tyler, which is inexplicably, wonderfully, sad; but when a durational drinking session, in which  the tiled floor becomes drowned in slippery booze, a resonant evocation for anyone that’s ever tried to drink blindly to oblivion, crashes in a horrifying result. The show escapes from Kylie and Jemma; “this is not the story we wanted to tell”.  And yet, too often drowned out by shrill tabloids, this is a story we need to hear.


Daniel B. Yates

Educated by the state, at LSE and Goldsmiths, Daniel co-founded Exeunt in late 2010. The Guardian has characterised his work as “breaking with critical tradition” while his writing on live culture &c has appeared in TimeOut London, i-D Magazine, Vice Magazine, and elsewhere. He lives and works in London E8, and is pleasant.

Thirsty Show Info

Produced by The Paper Birds

Directed by Jenna McDonnell, Kirsty Housley

Cast includes Jemma McDonnell, Kylie Walsh.

Original Music Shane Durrant




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