Earlier this year Bryony Kimmings gave a one woman show called “7 Days Drunk”, at the Edinburgh Festival, when she explored the effects of alcohol on creativity.
“The material for the show was taken over a 7 day period when she was cocooned in a studio being filmed drinking copious amounts of vodka and she illustrates the insidious effects of alcohol as she goes on a journey of self analysis and regret. The show included filmed comments from a psychiatrist and psychologist on her disintegrating state as she attempts to drink herself into oblivion. They concluded that alcohol degenerates the mind, body and soul and on the last day, after ten shots of vodka, she writes a melancholic song, full of regrets and missed opportunities.” As you can imagine, the show was a great talking point at the Fringe clubs over champagne cocktails. The acting profession has always attracted publicity for actors who like to drink, especially those who like to drink to excess. We used to fall about over stories of actors propping themselves up on set furniture, peeing into their armour, going blank mid song. Now we’re much more aware of the dangers of drinking too much. Artists who drink in order to soar into the stratosphere of their creative minds usually end up dead.
Office party goers who drink in a desperate effort to have a good time at the Christmas party, have the London Ambulance Service’s “booze buses” – mobile treatment centres that operate in the West End to look after them. They picked up nearly 300 “passengers” throughout the festive period last year. In the days before you blew into a tube, alcohol tests for drunk drivers were whether or not you could say “she sells seashells on the seashore” without slurring your words and while walking in a straight line.
Stories of normally very straight laced lawyers wandering around the City without shoes and not knowing where they live, do make us titter. They know that excess drinking is not the thing to do, if you want clients to trust you to look after their interests in court. But what about artists? Rimbaud, Proust, Amis, Gaugin, Bacon, Dorothy Parker, Hitchcock, Claudette, Freud and countless others all loved to drink and many artists believe that it enhances their work. Do we care when we read a brilliant book, see a wonderful film, see a breathtaking painting whether or not it was created through drinking alcohol?