Thirsty (3 stars)

Powerful physical evocation of the relationship between women and alcohol


This article is from 2011.


In a bathroom, on a hen night, two boozed-up young women dance, shriek and hector the audience, the epitome of Booze Britain. In one of the three toilet cubicles Shane Durrant sits astride the porcelain throne surrounded by music-making accoutrements. To his musical score Jemma (McDonnell) and Kylie (Walsh) introduce their project: to tell the stories of women who drink.

With drinking stories collected from a blog and questionnaire, and drunken ramblings culled from a hotline, the duo weaves verbatim extracts with the story of their friendship, measured by the bottle. As the action moves from flat to pub to club to taxi rank Durrant sets the scene sonically, adding moments of humour without stealing focus. Fiammetta Horvat’s set evolves from aptness into playful versatility.

Leeds company The Paper Birds are known for the dynamic movement of their work and, as expected, McDonnell and Walsh inhabit all the women they portray with a full-blown physicality. Combined with adroit prop work a red patent show becomes an emblem of a whole tract of society, a glass becomes a talisman, a party dress both uniform and armour.

While the cast purport to only be interested in showing the highs of drinking, the flipside of blackouts, poor decision-making, hangovers and regret spills in. This is when their movement capabilities really begin to shine. Scrolling through the postures and actions of sobriety, drunkenness and dizzying sickness, they express a whole nights agonies and ecstasies. While dealing with a topic that obliterates the senses they tell the stories of those who can barely speak, perform the dances of those who can barely stand. Without preaching or demonising, Thirsty engages with its subject with vitality, warmth and humour to create a powerful piece of physical theatre.

Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, until 28 Aug (not 15), 5.45pm, £10–£11 (£9–£10).

This article is from 2011.


  • 3 stars

Fringe First award winners the Paper Birds, return to the Pleasance for the world premiere of a new production based on our nation's love affair with alcohol. Weaving together hundreds of your real stories and booze-based confessions, Thirsty tells the story of one night, leaping from nightclubs to working men's clubs…

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