Review: All You Needs is LSD at the Unity Theatre ****
Turn on, tune in and let your imagination run riot along with the cast in this latest production from the mad masters of theatricality.
Told By an Idiot is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and All You Need is LSD is quite a party – complete with mind-bending moments and a starring role for a pat of Lurpak butter.
Playwright Leo Butler’s script delves in to the hallucinogenic history of lysergic acid diethylamide, from its first synthesisation by Swiss scientist Alfred Hoffman in the late 1930s through the counterculture exemplified by Timothy Leary, to the drug’s use to aid terminally ill patients.
This being Told By an Idiot however, it’s a history lesson full of knowing nods and arch asides, and a cerebrally entertaining romp through the Technicolor tale of “the most interesting drug of all time.”
Annie Fitzmaurice plays a high theatrical version of Butler, and here on stage the writer’s research in to LSD leads him to agree to become a guinea pig in the first clinical trials of the drug in half-a-century.
His mind-expanding journey has a Lewis Carroll-meets-Jefferson Airplane feel with the sporadic appearances of a White Rabbit and Alice (Sophie Mercell who also plays Hoffman among others), while a manic, fast-talking and combative Leary (Jack Hunter) tunes in every so often in a Mad Hatter top hat.
Above: Annie Fitzmaurice as Leo. Top: George Potts. Photos by Benkin Photography
The cast is completed by George Potts who pops up as a Professor Nutt, Miles Davis, and the writer – and embracer of psychedelic drugs – Aldous Huxley, whose passing assisted by a dose of LSD is a quietly moving passage in a play that elsewhere is a rollercoaster of crazy moments.
Along with Alice in Wonderland there are nods to ET and Doctor Who, a slug of Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here, a surprise appearance from Helen Mirren, and some classic Beatle bantering with Potts playing all four of the Fabs.
In case dropping acid sounds like nothing more than a jolly jape, there’s a brief hint of the dark side of the drug.
But in essence, All You Need is LSD is Told by an Idiot at its most playful and provoking.