Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham give us The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol, an hour-long show packed with spirit-related information, inappropriate banter and, of course, the real stuff, namely the alcohol itself. Their mantra is ‘drink less, but drink better’, and their aim is to show that without the influence of alcohol the world as we know it would not have been the same.
The opening sequence features a rather stern voice informing us of the inherent dangers of alcohol, but that is the last that the audience hears on that matter. Next follows the history of the world, told through the stories of our dear friends - beer, whiskey, bourbon, gin, rum, and absinthe. As the history of each drink is revealed to the audience, trays with shots of said drinks are passed around, leaving the audience not only entertained, but also slightly tipsy. (I believe that to be the whole point as the show is promoted as the perfect start to any night out in Edinburgh.)
The amount of research that the two gentlemen have put into their performance is quite impressive, and you cannot help but be pleased by the fact that such an inherently silly show can be somewhat educational too. McFarland and Sandham are highly entertaining and most of their jokes are just inappropriate enough to leave the audience satisfied. Particular mention should be made of the many historical references, loosely interpreted by the performers as they manage to make apparently boring facts fun and entertaining.
Although the laughs are many, you cannot however help but feel that the show sometimes is just a bit too silly, a trait that doesn’t always correspond all that well with its historical undertone. Some of these silly inputs, undoubtedly meant to provide lighter comic relief, often disrupt the flow of an otherwise coherent and genuinely funny performance.
Despite this, the two gentlemen in The Thinking Drinker’s Guide to Alcohol do achieve their main goal: to give the good people of Edinburgh an enjoyable start to their evening.