The Bread and the Beer

In our day to day anodyne world of commuting and spam e-mails it's easy to forget that sometimes we all need to swill a beer, dismiss our troubles and dance to our sweaty content. In his new one man show The Bread and the Beer, Tristram Bernays attempts to remind us of this by resurrecting long forgotten deity John Barleycorn - an actual folklore figure with similarly capricious upbeat views and follies to Roman equivalent Bacchus.

Bernays, who wrote and performs the show, has created a thrilling contemporary myth theorising what a god from the days of old would think of our modern, trudging world. His writing is vivid, punchy and full of memorable images. From the offset he draws us into a fantastical world of magic but keeps a strong reference point in the real through the structured development of the scenes and depth of the characters. Even supporting players in the Barleycorn fable are given more than enough zest and personality not only to justify their existence but to populate the narrative with multiple character arcs, none of which outweigh the central character's boozy journey through 21st century London.

The design, staging and use of projections are well thought out and visually arresting without being distracting and they all serve the narrative and setting. However, even if the show featured pyrotechnics, a full brass band and Fleetwood Mac's Lindsay Buckingham wailing You Can Go Your Own Way in the aisle every ten minutes, they would not serve as distractions due to Bernays' incredible performance. It is not just that it is full of boundless, boyish energy and that his characterisation, both physically and vocally, is varied without straying into unintentional comedy, it is his unwavering commitment to the show. He becomes fully engrossed in the yarn and there's an odd jolt at the end Bernays renters to give a bow out of character.

The Bread and the Beer is a thrilling 45 minutes and, due to the verve with which Bernays worships the beer, you will certainly leave desperate for a foaming glass.

Reviews by Andy Currums

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Since you’re here…

… we have a small favour to ask. We don't want your money to support a hack's bar bill at Abattoir, but if you have a pound or two spare, we really encourage you to support a good cause. If this review has either helped you discover a gem or avoid a turkey, consider doing some good that will really make a difference.

You can donate to the charity of your choice, but if you're looking for inspiration, there are three charities we really like.

Mama Biashara
Kate Copstick’s charity, Mama Biashara, works with the poorest and most marginalised people in Kenya. They give grants to set up small, sustainable businesses that bring financial independence and security. That five quid you spend on a large glass of House White? They can save someone’s life with that. And the money for a pair of Air Jordans? Will take four women and their fifteen children away from a man who is raping them and into a new life with a moneymaking business for Mum and happiness for the kids.
Donate to Mama Biashara now

Theatre MAD
The Make A Difference Trust fights HIV & AIDS one stage at a time. Their UK and International grant-making strategy is based on five criteria that raise awareness, educate, and provide care and support for the most vulnerable in society. A host of fundraising events, including Bucket Collections, Late Night Cabarets, West End Eurovision, West End Bares and A West End Christmas continue to raise funds for projects both in the UK and Sub-Saharan Africa.
Donate to Theatre MAD now

Acting For Others
Acting for Others provides financial and emotional support to all theatre workers in times of need through the 14 member charities. During the COVID-19 crisis Acting for Others have raised over £1.7m to support theatre workers affected by the pandemic.
Donate to Acting For Others now

Performances

The Blurb

Meet John Barleycorn: drinker, party animal, ancient god. A one-man epic tale where myths collide with the modern world. Bring a bottle - it's gonna be a hell of a party. www.thebreadandthebeer.com.

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