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The Legend of the Holy Drinker at the Vault Festival | Review

The Legend of the Holy DrinkerThis show is inspired by the 1939 novella from Austrian writer Joseph Roth and tells the story of a drunken homeless man called Andreas living in London that one day receives a thousand pounds from a City banker trying to make a good gesture and redeem his life. Andreas, an illegal immigrant from Eastern Europe, is reluctant to accept but then he is convinced, and the City banker asks him to repay the money back to St Therese in Westminster Cathedral, whenever he wishes. This starts a chain of events that will see Andreas having to deal with his past, from a relationship with an ex-girlfriend that resulted in him spending two years in jail, to a meeting with an old friend from school, now a very successful footballer. Andreas will lose all the money, find more money and again waste them on alcohol, food and bad relationships.

This play is presented by HUNCHTheatre, a company merging UK and East European roots, with a few shows already under its belt. There are five actors on stage, Andreas is played by a very believable Oleg Sidorchik, while the other characters are covered by Emily Houghton, Ed Davis, Eva Mashtaler and Oliver Bennett. The scenography is simple, a sheet of plastic paper and a few cardboard boxes, but it is used cleverly to transport the audience around London, from Westminster Cathedral to a posh hotel, to the streets of London. The actors are also very talented, able to switch between different characters and to provide some light chuckles here and there together with some poignant moments. Sidorchik delivers a great performance as the homeless man, even speaking very little English and using his native language for most of the play (the other actors make sure the public understands what Andreas is saying); he makes the character come alive even at his lowest moments.

At the end of the play, I found myself in the weird position of not knowing if I enjoyed the show and had to think about it for a while because while the actors were very talented, I did not buy emotionally into the proceedings. I think the problem was with the script that tried to be profound and comedic at the same time without managing to achieve either. On one side there were a few timid chuckles and some funny moments, but it was often too subtle or slightly weird. On the opposite side, I struggled to emotionally connect with Andreas, because the story never went too deep into the character and never explored the troubles in-depth, even when an accidental murder was discussed from Andreas’ past. In conclusion, while I was impressed by the actors, I was left lukewarm by the adaptation and all in all I do not think I would want to see it again. The film from Ermanno Olmi based on the same book from Joseph Roth is worlds apart, a masterpiece worth watching in place of this play.

3 Star Review

Review by Fabio Ghiotto

Award-winning international company HUNCHtheatre bring you an urgent modern adaption of Joseph Roth’s neglected 1939 European masterpiece. Andreas, a homeless immigrant alcoholic, is miraculously given a large amount of cash by a stranger. We follow him as he tastes luxury, drinks everything, confronts his dark past and tries to avoid more miracles. Using a team of refugee artists from across Europe, and incorporating their personal experiences, HUNCHtheatre updates the text from a Europe on the brink of disaster in 1939 to London in 2020. It is a tale for our times, a tale of homelessness, addiction, immigration and miracles in our city.

The Legend of the Holy Drinker
Vault Festival
28th January – 2nd February 2020
https://vaultfestival.com/

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