EFR - Reviews of A Brief History of Beer

A Brief History of Beer

Thu 1st – Tue 20th August 2013

reviews

Millie Morris

at 10:53 on 9th Aug 2013

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Offered as a free show, 'A Brief History of Beer' is befittingly situated in The Three Sisters pub, where audience members are encouraged to clutch a can whilst watching in the good name of Beer. This sets the tone for the rest of the show: those who are fans of the ‘amber nectar’ can drink up with the cast and savour what is on offer, whilst those who are more partial to a glass of fine wine are left straddling in the questionable depths of is-it-drama-or-documentary.

William Glenn and Trish Parry, the brains behind the booze, tell us that they will take us on a journey through space and time in order to ‘protect the beer continuum’. As the couple transport us from the legend of Ninkasi to Ireland, London, and Europe in a mish-mash of characters and dubious accents, all the hops-and-malt-related facts you could ever wish for are provided. What is equally as refreshing is the odd serving of context which situates the history of beer, such as facts about the Industrial Revolution, Franco-Prussian war, and the role that women have played within brewing throughout history.

However, the delivery is ragged and could benefit from sharper, tighter discourse – there are noticeable moments where dialogue jars and the cast’s wailing and wobbling ‘spaceship crashing’ effect leaves the experience far from immersive and plunges straight back into a pub room where some unconvincing Timelords are taking the stage. The set is cluttered, various and recurring sound effects serve as a distraction, and snappy character changes can be confusing.

The audience are called upon frequently to drink along with Glenn and Parry as they glug from real beer cans, and there is a joviality created which almost compensates for the lack of organisation about the set and dialogue. Everyone in the room is encouraged to join in in the name of good fun and good beer.

Overall, redeemed by its informative value, A Brief History of Beer is definitely one for the avid pub-frequenter. Despite having weak dramatic and stylistic moments, it still supplies an interesting and eclectic range of beer history, doing exactly what it says on the tin – or can.

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Emily Brearley-Bayliss

at 11:02 on 9th Aug 2013

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This wildly informal show was impossible to pigeonhole into any kind of genre; elements of comedy, sketch-show, improvisation, and even documentary, ended in a concoction of everything from the ridiculous to the educational. The premise - a pair of beer enthusiasts in a beer-powered time-machine embarking upon a journey to find a mystery criminal who has scrambled the history of our favourite beverage - was odd, to say the least.

The confidence and warmth of the two actors’ performances meant that, however strange, the spectators accepted what was happening on stage. Perfectly comfortable with their audience, actors and creators William Glenn and Trish Parry made their audience as comfortable as they were. They filled the time while they were setting up their vast array of beer-themed props with music that I’m sure many audiences will be looking up as soon as they get home. The obvious chemistry between the two of them shone through, and it was clear that they loved performing their sci-fi adventure through the creation of that ‘golden nectar’.

Very fittingly, the venue was a room above a busy pub, complete with a bar at the back from which we were positively encouraged to continually refresh ourselves. The whole thing was effectively a very surreal drinking game, in which we were commanded to help to resuscitate the ailing vessel by drinking along with the actors and boosting ‘carbonation levels’. A genuine sense of humour is what changes an average performance from slightly awkward to a comfortable giggle, and it was very clear that Glenn and Parry both knew exactly how ridiculous their whole concept was.

An uncomfortable comparison can be made between this production and the educational videos of Year 6 science lessons, where actors attempted to make learning cool with the addition of vocabulary that sounded like it had been stolen from the scripts of ‘Dr Who’. For people who are genuinely interested in the history of beer, information about the difference between beer and lager was genuinely fascinating, but for people who didn’t quite know what to expect they may have been bombarded with rather more education than they would have liked.

A later performance and a much drunker, rowdier audience would have made this show an absolute blast, and much better than it came across at half past six on a rainy afternoon. However, a cast with a sense of humour, a very cool venue and a concept that relied on the well-known fact that everybody loves beer made this weird show, ultimately, a success.

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