Tue 31st January 2012


Alice Penfold

at 23:44 on 31st Jan 2012



Three toilet cubicles, Beyoncé blaring in the background, two drunk-acting women, and an awkward man with his trousers around his ankles. The opening of “Thirsty” immediately and interactively shares with its audience a typical drunken night out, complete with all its singing, dancing, and camera-clicking.

The play breaks down the boundaries between life and acting through its intermingled narratives: as part of the show’s structure, the performers explained the nature of the project, which consisted of collecting together stories about drinking sourced from a blog, a questionnaire, and a drunken hotline. They focused, perhaps inevitably, on the category most frequently associated with binge drinking, on “the stories they’re expecting us to tell” and, having reflected on different ages, different genders, and different circumstances, the “she” category, of the young female student, emerged as the most prevalent source of the stories.

Jemma McDonnell (Artistic Director and Performer) and Kylie Walsh (Performer) were both captivating throughout the play. They maintained perfect comic delivery within their intense physical and verbal performances. Their synchronised routines, including repetitious cycle of drinking, dancing, collapsing, drinking, dancing, collapsing, vomiting, were compelling to watch; the success of their on-stage interaction was crucial to the overall success of the acting. Shane Durrant, the show’s composer and pianist, was also on-stage throughout the show, and consequently the play’s musicality was consistently interwoven into the dialogue and action.

In addition to the music, the lighting techniques used in the play were highly effective. The spotlighting on the rosé glass at the start of the student’s story, for instance, drew the attention of the audience to the focal point of the play, concentrating on the most important aspect of the night out, the catalyst of the night’s consequences.

The ending of the play saw McDonell and Walsh plastering both themselves and the stage in drink. Their representations of uncontrolled and uncontrollable behaviour did not become farcical at all but rather, they maintained a fine balance of comic and powerful delivery. The repetitions within the dialogue reflected the consistency, familiarity and ultimately cyclical nature of the drunken scenarios. The reduction to inarticulacy, demonstrated each time the performers attempted to describe how it felt to be drunk, were enhanced by effective directorial decision-making: Kylie’s attempts at answering the central question of why we drink were drowned by Jemma’s unconcerned singing to Bonnie Tyler, “I need you more than ever” serving as a neat reminder of the problems of drinking and alcohol dependency.

With three toilet cubicles at the heart of the action, “Thirsty” may initially seem just a light-hearted comedy. However, the play delves into drink culture, using creative, clever, and captivating theatrical forms to question why we are so thirsty.


Rebecca Loxton

at 02:41 on 1st Feb 2012



"Thirsty" is a slick little offering from award-winning theatre company The Paper Birds, and it’s well worth a watch.

The one-hour, one-act play explores the nation’s relationship with drink, and humorously ponders the reasons behind why Brits just loves to booze. The theatre company has collected personal testimonies about people’s relationship with alcohol from a hotline created to listen to Britain’s drink-fuelled confessions. The testimonies, mainly divulged by young women, form the basis of the play. "Thirsty" is refreshing: the girls insist they do not want to focus on the falling-out-of-clubs and being-sick-down-your-dress side of young women’s drinking, but rather on the light-hearted reasons behind why we first decide to sip a glass of wine. Nonetheless, the grittier side of alcohol-consumption forces its way on stage.

As the actresses down the sugary, alcoholic contents contained in yet another plastic cup from a nightclub bar, the boundaries blur between truth and fiction. The actresses on stage are partly playing themselves, partly acting out testimonies they received from the girls who rung their hotline to recount their experiences with alcohol during the booze-filled binge that is the first year of university for so many British students.

The play is well-acted, the actresses reacting well to each other and the bond of a strong friendship linking the two is evident. The set design is ingenious, three lavatory cubicles (which are transformed throughout the play by the talent of the actresses into student bedrooms, wardrobes and nightclubs), forming the basis of the set. The play involves aspects of adeptly-choreographed dance as the girls move in synchrony in a convincing portrayal of a spiral into drunkenness in a smoke-filled nightclub.

Despite the potentially weighty nature of the subject matter, the play remains light-hearted throughout, without giving binge-drinking superficial treatment. Witty one-liners draw laughs from the audience throughout. Boundaries between the actresses and the audience are merged as the actresses jump off the stage at the beginning of the play to interact with the audience and make them part of the action.

A play with a modern twist, Thirsty comments on its own mode of production, the actresses making direct references to the sound-effects used to create the effect of rain, to the music played that is intended to convey the uplifting effect of the first few welcome drops of wine after a long day at work.

Amusing, profound, comic and fun: this play is an innovative slice of contemporary theatre from one of Britain’s most exciting young theatre companies.


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