They say you have to suffer for your art. But whoever “they” are presumably aren’t talking about binge-drinking cider in public on a daily basis for a month. Mind you, that’s not stopping actor David William Bryan from doing exactly that at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival, all in the name of theatre. Whether theatre will thank him is another matter altogether.
The 33-year-old Londoner is going fully method, nobly necking eight tins over the course of an hour-long show, for 25 days, to get him closer to the addict he plays in an energetic, darkly comic one-man show called Trashed, written by Sascha Moore. The pair will also be making a documentary film, charting his experience of the show, his hangovers and general health, throughout of the month.
Before he got too shitfaced to form a coherent argument about the point of it all, I spoke to David about his motivation, and how to perform while pissed.
VICE: Can you tell me about the show?
David William Bryan: It’s a one-man play about an alcoholic bin-man, Goody, and it explores how men struggle to deal expressing their feelings, and the potential catastrophe of not being able to do that.
And you’re drinking six to eight cans of cider per show?
Yeah, there’s a lot of drinking involved. It’s a bit of a trauma every time I do the show. But the alcohol doesn’t really hit you until after, which is good. I can still function onstage.
That’s a large amount of cider to consume in an hour.
It is. But I’m about as fit as I’ve ever been in my life. I’ve been training for the last few months to be in really, really good shape. In Edinburgh, I’ll do 25 shows in a row. That excites me. By the time we get to two-thirds of the way through that, I’m really going to know what it’s like to always have alcohol in my system. Which is going to hopefully allow me to delve even deeper into that character.
Why drink cider rather than a can with fizzy water in it or something?
I trained at [method acting school] Stella Adler in America, and the core of it is to find a route into a character and circumstances. I had to make a decision: is the performance going to be better if I drink for real, or is it going to be worse? And I chose to drink because it helps me connect with the character. And it puts the audience in a position of going: hang on a second, is he actually drinking? What about this is real? I like blurring those lines.
If people have had drinking problems, might it be upsetting to see someone emulating that in front of them?
I have various people in my life who’ve had issues with alcoholism. The core of my research has been sitting down and talking about what that’s like. It’s straight from the horse’s mouth, really, [and] our marketing makes it pretty obvious what the play is about. So I don’t think we should be in any way apologetic.
Do you feel the drunkenness changing your performance as the hour goes on?
Oh for sure. You can feel it coming. And actually, Sascha’s writing works perfectly with it – it becomes more manic and hyped up; the language goes hand-in-hand with actually feeling disorientated. But I am in complete control – I would never in a million years put myself in a situation where I wasn’t in control onstage. I don’t think that’s ethically right.
When the show finishes, my adrenaline starts to dissipate but I’m still kind of buzzing. It’s a little frustrating, actually; we have to clean the set and clean all the booze off the stage, but I just feel a bit confused. I’ve joined a nice gym in Edinburgh, and my plan is to go for saunas and ice baths afterwards and try to sober up to prepare for the next show. Then again, when we get to Edinburgh fringe and everyone’s going out drinking, I might change my mind…
So what training did you do?
I’d been sat on my arse for a year before this, if I’m honest, so first I did a ton of cardio to lose weight, and then a load of strength training. After shifting about a stone in weight, I started working out for exactly an hour to emulate what the play is like physically. Essentially, it’s 60 monologues in a row while running around – and drinking. So I’ve been doing an hour on the treadmill or doing circuits, every single day, and then introducing the alcohol gradually.
What brand of cider are you drinking?
Do you like Strongbow?
Yeah. It’s the easiest one to drink, you know?
Do you think by the end of the month you might have lost your taste for it?