Edinburgh Fringe: Boozy shows take a look at drink

It is hard to avoid alcohol in Edinburgh during the festival season.

Many artists, especially comedians, have traditionally relied on booze to enhance their performances and some might hope their audiences will have done the same.

Edinburgh's major comedy awards and a number of venues are sponsored by drinks companies and almost every venue has a bar.

Drink is everywhere and this year it seems to be the subject of a large number of Fringe shows as well.

Jennifer Curran, head of policy at Alcohol Focus Scotland, said she would be concerned if Fringe shows took an irresponsible attitude to alcohol.

She said: "To look at alcohol in a flippant way is to normalise drunkenness and drunken behaviour. We know the harm it causes in Scotland."

Veteran comedian Arthur Smith, a Fringe regular for more than 30 years, came under criticism when he announced that all the guests at his chat show would be drunk.

Image caption Arthur Smith said all his chat show guests would be drunk

However, Smith is not a drinker.

He said he used to be an "international class boozer" until 2001 when his pancreas went on strike and he nearly died.

The Grumpy Old Men star said his show would explore the possibilities of intoxication from "the dull high ground of sobriety".

He said: "I am doing a chat show at which I am sober but all the guests are going to be drunk.

"I call it In Vino Veritas Goes On Trial."

Smith said: "Is it good to be drunk? Are you funnier? Are you more likely to let slip indiscretions? Or are you a thundering bore?

"Alcohol is a big subject at the moment and my little contribution is to see what people are like when they are drunk.

"Let's be honest, mostly, they are bit of a pain."

Smith also denied that earlier he had claimed audience members had to be drunk.

"I don't mind if the audience are drunk but I don't want to encourage that because I will get myself in trouble with the Scottish licensing authorities," he added.

Increasingly intoxicated

While Smith's social experiment may be a little hit and miss, performance artist Bryony Kimmings has taken a more scientific approach for her Fringe show, Seven Day Drunk.

Each day, during a week-long experiment, Kimmings made herself increasingly intoxicated, under the supervision of a team of scientists, doctors and psychologists.

Image caption Whisky Fir Dummies wants to promote "high quality" drinks in favour of cheap booze

She was breathalysed at regular intervals to ensure a steady blood-alcohol level on different days, ranging from tipsy to paralytic, as she then attempted to make work in the studio.

Kimmings wanted to test the traditional link between creative artists and alcohol.

She said the experiment had completely changed the way she looked at drinking.

"All of these scientific ways of looking at it have made me realise what it is doing to me is not a positive thing," she said.

"It is actually just faking a feeling that I probably could have from talking to people in a nice way and jollying about in a pub without a drink."

Whisky connoisseur Alan Anderson wants to promote drinking but he urges people to develop an appreciation for high-quality drinks.

He said his show - Whisky fir dummies - was a "celebration of Scotland's greatest export".

'Greatest resource'

Mr Anderson said: "By the end of the night we hope people will go away having had a hilarious time and have a better knowledge of whisky.

"There are lots of great high-quality whiskies on the market but the Scots aren't drinking them that much.

"They are being exported around the world.

"Many Scots tend to drink cheap, poor quality alcohol, so I thought I had got to educate this country to drink our greatest resource."

Mr Anderson added: "I am not promoting drinking. I am promoting the appreciation of whisky. Not the Saturday night in the Grassmarket drinking culture.

"I am not a big drinker. I learned at an early age to appreciate something high-quality rather than throwing pint after pint down my neck."

Another Fringe show - The Thinking Drinkers' Guide to Alcohol - also wants to promote quality drinking.

As its website states: "Life is far too short to be drinking lousy booze."

It will be up to audiences to decide if the secret of a good Fringe show lies at the bottom of a glass.