I wasn’t sure just quite what to expect from Thirsty; all I really knew was that it was inspired by the British obsession with drink. About a year ago, The Paper Birds, a multi-award winning group based in Leeds, set up a blog, questionnaire and drunken hotline to collate people’s stories about alcohol. Combining these responses with their own experiences, they produce an hour long meditation of the role drink plays in our everyday lives.
The start doesn’t bode well, an atypical Hen scene, with Kylie Walsh and Jemma McDonnell, our two stars for the evening, playing the rolls of drunken lasses having a “girl’s night out”. Never fear, this is merely the introduction to what is a clever, balanced, funny, and, at times, touching and deeply moving production.
Set in a rather adaptable public toilet, with a Shane to provide musical accompaniment in one of the cubicles, the girls work through verbatim responses, weaving them into the story behind their friendship. Although this tale keeps being interrupted, as they attempt to put forward the positive aspects of alcohol, you find yourself getting that sinking feeling, knowing deep down where this story is likely to end.
Binge drinking is a subject matter which could so easily descend into preaching, but The Paper Birds handle it superbly, weaving in and out of stories with an even-handed approach. It would be easy to forget the highs whilst solely concentrating on the bad memories. What stands out tonight is the sheer energy, guts and emotion both stars bring to their performances; high octane at times, with both the stars literally throwing themselves into it. There’s water everywhere, and as the drink keeps on flowing, the production winds-up to its finale.
Thirsty sucks you in and holds your attention. I found myself dissecting my drinking history during the performance. It makes you think, ruminating within you long after the lights come up. The energetic performances only serve to enhance the narrative. An empathetic tale of how one can lead to another, and before you know it, things can spiral out of control.