George Potts, Annie Fitzmaurice, Jack Hunter and Sophie Mercell. Picture: Benkin photography

All You Need is LSD

Birmingham Rep Door


All You Need is LSD by Leo Butler is a fascinating projection of culture’s acceptance of the psychedelic drug.

Butler’s well researched script is paired with the playful genius of theatre company, Told by an Idiot. Directors Paul Hunter and Stephen Harper use Butler’s knowledgeable play to create a unique suggestive and powerful thought process in a humorous and energetic tone.

Butler takes inspiration from Prof David Nutt, a leading researcher into LSD and mind altering drugs. With a script that invites us to understand the ways in which the drug affects the human body and brain, the play paints a colourful picture of the accounts and findings from experiences and experiments.

Butler’s script is slick and fast. It has wonderful, fascinating mix between light entertainment and natural elements which give us an insight into how the LSD drug is culturally and scientifically perceived. Butler approaches the subject in a humorous non-judgmental tone, which allows the audience to feel comfortable about the matter.

Told by an Idiot are the perfect company to undertake the task of telling us about LSD. They bring us as close to going on a trip as legally possible. The company and Butler are unafraid to project a stylistic and absurdist style which works completely with the tone of the subject.

Butler switches from one scene to the next in an instant. We see sequences alluding to German doctors, 1960’s America, Lurpak butter and BBC’s Doctor Who. Although the listed items may seem random, they have direct links with each other. The Idiot’s total commitment to fun and play is the brilliance that is able to make an audience see the sense and similarities from the ideas.

The mighty cast of four are the driving force that lifts the production. Their non-stop energy is catchy and it is an impressive observation to see them move and work the absurdist magic as naturally as possible. The cast are always present on stage at the same time, working like a well-trained sports club. They put total faith into what their teammate does, which allows each actor to be monumental when their individual moment comes.

With this production, it is the story and internal feeling of non-reality that is central to the performance. This means that the actors aren’t assigned to one particular character, but rather, they play parts as the plot demands it. Annie Fitzmaurice takes on the predominate role of the playwright Leo Butler himself. There are certain times where Butler makes amusing jests at his own nature and comments on the essence of theatre as a whole. Butler’s ironic observations and intricately thought-out lines are well received by the audience.

Jack Hunter is brilliant as an eclectic array of characters with each moving scene. His presence is captivatingly visceral, which makes for a roaringly humours performance. Of course, with Butler’s natural talent for one-liner deliveries, Hunter finds a way to always make the audience laugh.

An explosive performance is also seen by Sophie Mercell. Her energy and enthusiasm is a treat to behold and as she presented animated characters, most notably the German doctor excited to discover LSD for the first time, even entertaining us with a bouncy song. Amongst the joyous world and playful nature of the story, the company still put an emphasis on the real and touching experience of human emotion. There was a particularly striking scene towards the end where Mercell played the part of the doctor’s wife, finding him on his deathbed. Mercell’s soft intonation and tender expression made for a beautifully touching moment.

George Potts is also a fantastic addition to the cast. He has a great grasp of voice and he uses his talent very well to create comedic and instantly recognisable performances. He has a brilliant way of making us laugh heartily, then captivates us with real and natural emotion with strong and tender scenes. Watch out for his particularly amusing 1960’s Doctor Who impression.

Told by an Idiot and Leo Butler are the perfect match. The company has a truly distinctive style with energetic and playful exuberance. Butler’s witty and stylised writing is cleverly planned with layers of deep wit. With Butler’s intention of informing us about the drug and Told by an Idiot’s urge to entertain, the performance is a close feeling to our brains being separate to our bodies. To 13-10-18

Elizabeth Halpin


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