Thirsty is the story of an anonymous everygirl who goes out drinking to blot out the middle class misery of going to university. This is interwoven with the actually very touching story of how the two actresses’ relationship had developed over the last ten years, partially through their shared love of going out together. This strand was, however, left mainly unexplored, focussing instead on the vulnerability of young women out getting pissed. There was an extremely annoying claim of “not wanting to tell this story” running throughout the narrative. We’re told this again and again, that they want to tell a measured tale of the positives that people take from their social lives, the various ways in which they use alcohol to enhance their lives in a safe way, but they keep getting seduced by the story of a young woman drinking to blot out the pain. And all I kept thinking was, “Well, you are telling that story. You have chosen to put a young woman, on a stage, as a victim of, not the social forces and individuals around her, but her own decisions. So own it.”
The thing is, this is dangerous stuff. By showing, as I felt was clearly the implication, that unhappiness in young women will lead to drinking, which will lead to dangerous, unpleasant situations, you are saying that young women are the only ones who can arrest this behaviour pattern, and that, by implication, the consequences are “their fault”. Despite the fact it’s two young women telling us this, the implication of blame is stark. So where are the stories of alternative ways of coping? Where are the stories of the culture that has led us here? The only aggressor shown in the show is alcohol itself, but this is a myopic presentation. Getting hammered once in a while in the company of trusted friends is not risky behaviour - so why weren’t we shown the people who pose these risks? Why are the only people shown, taking these decisions and getting damaged by them, the young women themselves?
I might be reading this all wrong. The audience were so into it. I could see all of them, and they were all crying by the end. Really, everybody. They loved it. Perhaps it’s because the experiences that Thirsty discussed were so much my own that I couldn’t get caught up. Because they were so explicitly describing young women just like me, only a couple of years younger. This is my life, and my truth, that they were presenting on stage. And it’s just so lazy to point out the ends of the bad nights, when everything goes wrong, and only nod to the sheer joy of going out with friends in your early 20’s, and taking on the world. The bonding, and the learning, that come with the experiences described, are tantalisingly hinted at, but never explored. At so many points, the play felt that it could become a rousing hymn to female friendship, but it never got past the first chord. The denouement, which, in fairness, obviously stunned and moved the majority of the audience, felt like it was unearned and, actually, very judgemental. I was left feeling angry and frustrated by the show.
And so, to talk through my feelings of anger, and discuss the broader issues around the subject matter, I went out for a drink with my friend. And nothing. Bad. Happened. At all.