Mark Ludmon reviews The Thinking Drinkers Pub Crawl at Underbelly, Bristo Square at Edinburgh Fringe
A lot of drinking goes on in Edinburgh during the festivals, and a good deal of that is thanks to The Thinking Drinkers. Each year, drinks experts Ben McFarland and Tom Sandham bring us their winning cocktail of comedy and free booze mixed with fun facts about the history of imbibing. This year’s offering, The Thinking Drinkers’ Pub Crawl, takes us back to the world’s earliest evidence of a drinking establishment and then on to Ancient Greece symposiums, Wild West saloons and Victorian gin palaces.
Despite containing genuine facts for impressing your mates down the pub, the show is packed with jokes, good and bad, delivered slickly and shamelessly by the two engaging performers. Directed by Jeremy Stockwell, it is not just two men in suits talking: with odd props and odder costume changes, it features some particularly unsettling moments, including one that may ruin Dirty Dancing for you forever.
The infotainment is fuelled by free samples, starting with a hoppy pale ale from Lagunitas in California and moving on to Ketel One Vodka, Four Pillars Rare Dry Gin, Jameson Irish Whiskey and Diplomatico Reserva Exclusiva rum. As part of the duo’s mantra to “drink less but drink better”, they urge the audience not to do shots but to appreciate the aromas and flavour notes of each of the drinks. They also highlight their own campaign at ThinkingDrinkers.com to lobby government to cut beer tax to stem the decline in the number of pubs in Britain, still closing at a rate of 19 a week. We are left in no doubt about the importance of the pub to human civilisation and, as a bonus, have had a hearty laugh while learning about it.
Running to 26 August 2018 and then touring England until 30 March 2019