• Amy Toledano

The Legend of The Holy Drinker presented by Hunchtheatre

What is it? The Legend of The Holy Drinker is a modern adaptation of Joseph Roth’s 1939 Nobel. 

What is it all about?

Andreas, a homeless Eastern-European alcoholic is mysteriously given a large amount of money by a rich man. Financial miracles continue to happen and the show follows him as he decided what to do with the money. 

How did it make me feel?

Have you ever seen one of those YouTube videos where a rich 19 year old internet star gives a homeless person money and then secretly films them as they travel across LA spending it before posting it on twitter for clout? This play is almost exactly that story and brings forth almost exactly those uncomfortable emotions attached to performative generosity. 

The cast perform a myriad of characters to taunt and cajole the protagonist in to spending his new found fortune on booze and women. It is also worth noting that the cast are all white, an interesting choice considering the breadth of characters they play in an incredibly racially diverse metropolitan city. 

In increasingly divided times, where opinions of people in poverty, immigrants and those who struggle with addiction are at a low, I do wonder about HUNCH’s decision to stage this play where Andreas is portrayed as a stumbling drunk, who is “the lowest of the low, doesn’t speak any fucking English at all”. Maybe this is symptomatic of the time the original text was written in, but this is billed as a modern adaptation and I wish they had spent less time focusing on Bar Italia and more time considering the social implications of taunting some of the most marginalised people in the city. 

It has to be said that the actor playing Andreas is incredible. He plays Andreas with raw authenticity, never stooping to the lows of the caricatured middle classes. I easily could have watched a one man version of this play. 

Some of the directorial choices are very exciting. In particular the use of on-stage translation. Anytime a foreign language is spoken one of the actors dub it live in English. This makes the world feel expansive and real and I hope this technique is used in their work going forward. 

The set is also very effective and integrated brilliantly with the ever changing places and times. 

Some of the lines feel awkwardly improvised and there is a clash of acting styles from the ensemble cast that feels messy, but in general there are some strong individual performances. 

Anything else?

At one point in the play Andreas is asked to watch a film about homelessness. At the end, when he is asked for comment he simply replies ‘fucking bullshit.’

Although I wouldn’t go so far as to agree, he has a point. This play does not represent the homeless immigrant community in an accurate or positive light, and it is unclear as to who it is trying to impress. 

Serafina x

The Legend of The Holy Drinker is playing in the Crescent, The Vaults until the 2nd February 2020.

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