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All You Need Is LSD review at Birmingham Repertory Theatre – ‘contained chaos’

The cast of All You Need Is LSD at Birmingham Repertory Theatre. Photo: Benkin Photography
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Though it’s something of a muddle, there’s a coherent conceit behind Leo Butler’s new comedy All You Need Is LSD. It’s a play about the history of a hallucinogenic drug, so he’s constructed it like one big, 90-minute trip.

It’s only fairly funny, but it is a lot of fun. Butler builds a potted history of LSD into a cascade of skits, sketches, lectures and theatrical games. We get the Swiss scientist Albert Hofmann discovering the drug in 1938 and promptly tripping his nuts off. We get iconic American psychologist Timothy Lear – a yodelling, hyperactive Jack Hunter – protesting about its criminalisation.

We even get Butler himself – gender-swapped, and played with spaced-out friendliness by Annie Fitzmaurice – weaving in his own experiences with acid throughout. There’s also the moving LSD-alleviated death of Aldous Huxley, plenty of Alice in Wonderland bits, and even an extended Doctor Who adventure into the future to finish.

It’s difficult to hear much coherent thought behind the contained chaos of Paul Hunter and Stephen Harper’s staging – a touring co-production between the Birmingham Rep and Told by an Idiot that takes place on and around a bouncy, white, climbing frame – but Butler does manages to sneak in a serious point or two: why are we okay with alcohol but not acid, when the latter is proven to cause less social, physical and psychological harm? Shouldn’t we, he asks, tongue slightly in cheek, all start taking LSD? Eye-opening stuff, in more way than one.

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Leo Butler's trippy theatrical history lesson about LSD