Fancy a drink? Then get yourself along to the Bridewell Theatre where DRUNK is currently playing.
DRUNK is the inaugural show from the newly-formed McOnie Company. Founder Drew McOnie is the creative driving force, pairing his choreography and direction with a sumptuous score by Grant Olding. The result meshes musical theatre with dance using the favourite pastime of the British as its subject matter: drinking.
Enter Gemma Sutton, playing a newly single girl (Ice – who can go with almost any drink) finding her way into a bar. Indecision over what she wants (well, a stable relationship, an honest man… oh, you mean to drink?) gives way to a parade of our best-loved beverages; the human stories beneath and what they say about those who select them as their tipple.
DRUNK is a dazzlingly gorgeous show. The dance routines and effective lighting and costume design combine to provide strong aesthetic appeal. Thankfully, the story and the music are great too: so we’d say the McOnie Company have succeeded in their aim of marrying dance and musical theatre.
With such a terrific ensemble it’s difficult to pick out individuals, though Lucinda Lawrence in particular shone with providing some well-timed comic levity, especially in her depiction of Vodka. Other moments that especially grabbed us included a poignant love story between WWII soldiers Scotch and Rum (Ashley Andrews and Fela Lufadeju) told through a letter narrated by Gemma Sutton; and contrastingly effervescent numbers in which Gin and Tonic (Katy Lowenhoff and Simon Hardwick), and later the Hooray Henry Pimms brigade, play out with comic effect. The sultry and seductive green goddess Absinthe (Anabel Kutay) was suitably sexy.
Whilst the dancers and the choreography deserve enormous praise, so too does the music. Grant Olding’s score for the most part falls under the bracket of jazz, but also has Latin influences and a few show-stopping musical numbers thrown in for good measure. An enormous boon is that it’s played by a live band comprising piano, saxophone, trumpet, bass and percussion. Music enthusiasts will relish it, and a great touch is that the band is playing when the audience arrives.
DRUNK’s moments of musical theatre are well-conceived too, with Grant Olding’s deliciously witty lyrics no less impressive than his score. As the lynchpin of the piece, Gemma Sutton performs the big musical numbers: a challenge she rises to. The perennial problem of pervasive percussion can leave you straining to hear every word at times (for the most part the mics do the job), but it’s worth the effort, rewarding close attention with some lovely details.
DRUNK builds to a satisfying climax with the hedonistic absinthe giving way to water. The dance of life features the male dancers performing shirtless, and by this time their sweat-soaked torsos neatly extend the metaphor: as well as being, well… easy on the eye.
At only eighty-five minutes with no interval, DRUNK is unceasingly absorbing, full of inventive ideas, and it provides audiences with a rich and enjoyable show. This reviewer knows next to nothing about dance (save for having seen the odd episode of Strictly) and would normally run a mile from the genre, but the story of DRUNK is clearly defined and accessible and the musical theatre element provides something truly universal as well as unique.
Overall verdict: DRUNK is an intoxicating fusion of dance and musical theatre that will leave you thirsty for more. Make mine a double.