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Review: Thinking Drinkers at Harrogate Theatre

It’s easy to forget what a great theatre we have on our doorstep here in Harrogate. In the same way that I suspect people who live in London rarely stop and go “wow, that’s tower bridge that is, you know, like off post cards” it is easy to not check out what is going on at this great venue; equally when you do, sometimes it’s all to easy just to notice the big events. But the theatre is really three venues in one, and what makes it special is that not only does the theatre attract huge big-name tours, but can also hold events that are on a somewhat smaller scale.

I actually thought that the Thinking Drinkers present The Legends of Liquor show would be in the stalls theatre. It is a bit of a cult thing, a production from a duo who have had a sold out run at the Edinburgh Fringe, and have had garnered vast critical acclaim for their previous work, including the “Guide to Alcohol”.

In the event, the show was presented on the main stage. This could have presented problems as this was never going to sell the type of ticket numbers of say, Ed Byrne. Clearly however, because of the nature of the production, which ranges from tongue-in-cheek deliberate low budget slapstick, to video montages and repeated costume changes ( or should that read “total costume removal…”?) the main theatre was the most suitable venue for it. This is one of the positives about Harrogate theatre: because of the size of the main auditorium it can hold shows that won’t fill it, but still offer a sense of intimacy, with you being very up-close and personal to the performers.

Ben and Tom, the two Thinking Drinkers in question are first and foremost journalists, having written several well regarded guides to drinking “from Portland to Prague”. They are however, equally at home on stage as they are behind a typewriter (because journalists in my mind still use typewriters, and have a card that says “press” in their trilbies). Using a lot of cheesy puns their comedy is a mixture of story telling, one liners, visual gags and good old fashioned punch lines. They also include a few slightly edgier jokes that mean you never know what to expect, and an hour in their company flies by.

As someone who has often woken up in a cup full of regret, I was hoping there would be a little more of the science of avoiding hangovers, but I think that means I just need to be on the lookout for future shows from these two. As it goes, I tucked into the free drinks on offer and indeed went out and followed them up with a curry (at Shalimar on Cheltenham Parade, excellent), headed out for a couple more pints and still woke up clear headed, so clearly the gin, whiskey, vodka, porter and bourbon on offer were decent products. Truth be told, working as I do with one of Harrogate’s finest pubs, I know they are good products cos they’ve all been sold there at some point .. in fact I think there is currently Plymouth Gin nestled in amongst the 37,562 other gins on the shelf at 10 Devonshire Place. If not, I’ll make them get some in as it was the best drink of the evening. I wouldn’t usually drink gin neat but one of the points made during the show was that high quality spirits don’t just need to go in cocktails, and can be rather lovely on their own.

The main drive of the production is to stop drinking rubbish, and drink better products. Currently in the bar scene that is where things are going and it has long been an approach I’ve had. I would rather pay a little more for something much better, than buy cheap and pay for it twice tomorrow. Harrogate itself is starting to get a really good level of pubs and bars with this philosophy, and with productions such as The Thinking Drinkers becoming popular this trend looks set to continue.

On the way out I bought their book (something that, if you are so inclined, is always a good idea to do at a show, first of all because you tend to get them cheaper, secondly cos they will sign them, and perhaps most importantly, because it is a great way to support artists, buying products actually from them rather than online means that the money goes to them rather than some shady multinational conglomerate, for example). Having scanned through it is looks like a great deal of research has gone into writing it, and it certainly offers some drinks I am going to hunt down. Indeed that is the best way to sum up the Guide to The Legends of Liquor show: a very highly researched and entertaining romp through some of the best drinks around, packed with the type of anecdotes you are likely to find yourself reciting over some of those very same drinks before too long!

Bravo to Harrogate Theatre for providing a platform for this type of thing. Their comedy festival is currently in full swing, with the legendary Tim Brooke-Taylor there this weekend, Stewart Francis (Mock the Week) is forthcoming on the 21st of this month, but they also are bold enough to put on smaller events too, which means that we get a fantastic range of shows brought to our very doorstep.

Check out their listings here , and why not enjoy a thinkers drink in the superbly renovated Circle Bar whilst you are there? Good show!

Review by Dj Trev

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