A Brief History of Beer

Wish Experience (London, England)

May 30, 2014 at 8:46 am

“This is a drink-along show,” it said on the video monitor in Know Theatre’s Underground Bar prior to this show by Wish Experience from the U.K. It continues, “You may wish to have more than one drink at the ready. You have been warned.”

Alas, not quite enough. The warning might be even clearer: “You really should have arrived about an hour ago and had four or five before we get rolling. Then our humor might strike you as funny.”

The 60-minute piece is a strange mixture of space/time voyage — Trish Parry and William Glenn (who wrote the work and are its two performers) are dressed in uniforms reminiscent of the original Star Trek series (with a mug of beer emblem in place of a communicator badge) — and a chronological series of videos and jokey narrative really describing “a brief history of beer.” But the Quantum Pint Mission along the Beer Continuum wears thin long before the show’s conclusion.

Along the way, we’re asked to take a pull on our bottle or glass to avert red alerts, and when their narrative jumps from one time period to another, the crowd is urged to wave their hands in the air and shout as though they’re on the downhill side of a roller coaster. But the false hilarity quickly wears thin.

To compound matters, the acoustics and sight lines in the Underground (with all the seating on one level) are not very accommodating. There are some clever although silly videos that give us glimpses into the past (cave men “inventing” beer, medieval saints issuing edicts about brewing and so on) if you can see them. Parry and Glenn keep up a steady stream of shouted remarks that are probably funny if you can hear them. They thread their way through the crowd and lead everyone in a sing-along “This Beer Is My Beer” (to the tune of “This Land Is Your Land”).

I wish I’d had a few more, but I had to take notes and write about their tomfoolery. This might be a good show late on a Saturday night after a few hours of carousing. On a Thursday, it felt kind of forced.

Bottoms up!

A BRIEF HISTORY OF BEER by Wish Experience will be performed 7 p.m. May 31, 7:15 p.m. June 3, 7:30 p.m. June 4 and 7:30 p.m. June 6 at Know Theatre (1120 Jackson St., Over-the-Rhine).