Spaced: Whisky Theatre

Imagine you’re fifteen. Imagine you’re using BBC Bitesize modules to help cram for the GCSE History exam the following day. Imagine, also, that you’re trying stave off revision by drinking whisky. This is Spaced: Whisky Theatre. It’s a show by John Mark Di Ciacca, also known as the Whisky Anorak.

Struggling to spot the tastes he’s suggesting teeters on the edge of the dramatic

He’s a well-regarded connoisseur and raconteur of all things whisky. What this show aims to do (and there are several) is bring you up to speed with the happenings of the Cold War: the bombs, the hysteria and the drinks that were drunk. He’s telling a story. A great, complex story which’ll run for ninety minutes.

Is Di Ciacca really a storyteller, though? His show makes him out to be more of a teacher, and one who’s not that experienced in a classroom. So he’s not so much a tour guide through the post-modern, post-WWII world as a supply teacher who’s keen on talking alcohol.

His style is unrehearsed: he’s either talking off-the-cuff or while staring at his iPad. For an hour and a half. What he tells is not only a potted history of the Cold War but also a very simplistic, even bland one. If you could read his script it’d probably be a succession of uniform, bullet-point paragraphs, each cribbed and barely reformulated from the relevant Wikipedia article. And this is frustrating, because the Whisky Anorak genuinely has skills when it comes to talking his namesake. When he’s explaining the provenance and the tasting notes of the drinks he magics a dreamy, atmospheric haze it’s easy to get lost in, leading you through notes of salt, peat, or butter as he times the audience’s sips and gives an aesthete’s touch to the otherwise lazy proceedings.

Spaced: Whisky Theatre isn’t dinner theatre. Truly, it’s not even theatre. There’s potential here for something less dry, more in the deliquescent style of the tastings: struggling to spot the tastes he’s suggesting teeters on the edge of the dramatic. There could be a fusion of storytelling and drinking though the Anarok’s method, but it won’t be found here. And Di Ciacca doesn’t seem to care: he faced similar criticisms of his show in 2014. The man knows it needs change, and it won’t happen. So that’s how Whisky Theatre will stay, probably: a lumbering lump of a show.

Reviews by Oliver Simmonds

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★★
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★★★
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★★
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Camille

★★★★
Greenside @ Infirmary Street

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★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

The East/West stand-off surely needed the hard stuff to steady nerves. The story of the Cold War, near nuclear annihilation and how whisky played its part. Who knew? A scintillating whisky tasting – the Whisky Anorak way. In 2012, in the presence of HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco, The Whisky Anorak led the Inaugural Tasting of the MonteCarlo Whisky Society at the Hotel de Paris and gave an Expert Whisky Tasting for 18 Monegasque Sommeliers and Masters of Wine. '... there are few better ways than to spend an afternoon in his company' (BroadwayBaby.com, 2013).