“Thoroughly enjoyable and educational”
The cosy Edinburgh Gin Distillery is the perfect venue for a tour of literature’s liquor references, washed down with no less than four gin-based cocktails. It’s comfortable, intimate (audience numbers are limited to 20), and a delightful escape from the bustle of the Fringe.
The show is presented by the quirky and immensely knowledgeable Ewan Angus, who welcomes us to the distillery and talks us through the first of our evening’s beverages. He soon moves on to the good stuff – the literature – starting with who else but Robert Burns.
Throughout the evening, Angus covers a complete range of work, covering writers as diverse as Dickens, Zola, Eliot and Carroll, to lesser known modern authors including Thomas Pynchon and Jim Dodge. He explains the context of each piece, including society’s attitude towards alcohol, and reads selected excerpts which wonderfully describe or talk about liquor and its effects.
Of course, there were features on the well-known gin drinkers of the 20s (Fitzgerald, Hemingway et al.) but no show about literature and liquor would be complete without inclusion of Ian Fleming’s James Bond. Indeed, one of the many surprising facts I learned during this show was how Fleming would knock back up to a bottle of gin a day while writing his last novels. To further his argument into Fleming’s obsession with gin, Angus references passages from Casino Royale and Thunderball, which both give detailed accounts of the many charms of a martini. I’m sure there are plenty more.
However, while gin is commonly known as “mothers’ ruin” – the etymology of which is also discussed in this show, it was somewhat surprising that so few female writers were included. Only works by George Eliot and Elizabeth Gaskell made the cut, though Angus explains that while his research was extensive, it seems women were generally more restrained in their references to liquor.
While Angus is clearly very knowledgeable and passionate about his subject, his delivery was at times a little introverted and rushed, and I would have liked to see more confidence and charisma come through. However, as this show is still very new, I’m sure that will come in future performances.
Overall, this is a very well-researched and informative show, and apart from leaving somewhat more inebriated than on one’s arrival, it’s thoroughly enjoyable and educational.
Reviewer: Steve Griffin (Seen 24 August)
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