“Are we all having fun?” shout Jemma McDonnell and Kylie Walsh as they begin Thirsty with the high energy enthusiasm of a raucous hen do. This is the story of women drinking, and despite tender and touchingly arranged scenes of a single mother and a couple in their 50s, it is dominated by a young female binge-drinking student.
Fiammetta Horvat’s ingeniously simple set consists of three toilet stalls – one contains musician Shane Durrant, the other transform into bedrooms, nightclubs or changing rooms. At times subtle choreography is overused so as to lose its effectiveness, but this is a visually stimulating piece that is also incredibly emotionally engaging.
McDonnell and Walsh weave the story of their own friendship into the piece, transforming this from a lecture on the dangers of alcohol to an exploration into the social lives of women. It’s likely every woman can identify with the red stiletto-wearing protagonist. She drinks to be social but also to unlock a more confident, funny and interesting side of herself. And sometimes she drinks too much.
Although it’s clear where the piece is headed, the climax is nonetheless difficult to watch. McDonnell is so physically expressive in portraying the ultimate lows of drinking that when, in sodden dresses and with smeared makeup, they slur “Are we all having fun?” the audience is silent.