Villains, Heroes and Adventurers: Whisky Tasting

This is a strange addition to the Fringe programme - and I'm not talking swastika-straddling naked physical theatre or radical juggling Shakespeare revamp. Villains, Heroes and Adventurers is more like corporate after-dinner entertainment than something you'd expect at an arts festival; John Mark di Ciacca's whisky tasting and storytelling takes place in the boardroom of Jenners department store, an oak-panelled bunker surrounded by offices and gleaming shop floors. Seated in rows of impeccably laid tables, we're given three tumblers and a business card, presumably so that we can hire out di Ciacca for our next departmental ice-breaker.

'This is your evening,' our eager host opens, preparing us for an hour and a half of alcohol appreciation and riveting tales. While I'm personally no authority on high-class hooch (and fellow drinkers assure me we're being offered top-notch stuff), I must admit di Ciacca's own material and delivery are both a bit of a let-down. He’s likeable enough, but overall it’s a gently rambling evening that leaves many slumped in their seats: a mixed barrel of unrelated stories delivered with little energy or flair.

The 'heroes and adventurers' of the title are Arctic explorers and the gold rushers of America's new frontier. Who knows what either of these have to do with whisky, but it's reasonably engaging if a little confused; Di Ciacca's insistence on squeezing in endless trivia can make him sound a little like a pub bore. It's annotated with powerpoint slides and at one point we're shown a stop-motion animation of Ernest Shackleton's arrival on Elephant Island. The experience begins to feel slightly like sitting through a shyly eccentric schoolteacher's history lesson whilst getting slowly drunk. Di Ciacca's narration is considered but far from enthralling and though we're told we can ask questions whenever we want, he's a little put out when someone actually does; unsurprisingly, it transpires he's not hugely knowledgeable about the time periods on which he's presenting.

What he does know is whisky; di Ciacca makes the complexities of the drink’s flavours and processes surprisingly interesting and when he's in his field of expertise our humble raconteur gains an engagingly passionate, quirky charm. For enthusiasts or budding tasters this could be a pleasant hour and a half, but at fifteen pounds a pop those looking for a tipple with adventurous intrigue might frankly be better off heading down the pub or watching the history channel.

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.
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Performances

The Blurb

The Whisky Anorak, advisor to the Monte Carlo Whisky Society, invites you to a rare malt whisky tasting. Captivating stories of lost Antarctic bottles, misplaced submarines (with photo evidence) and more. A heroic show.

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