Home » London Theatre Reviews » The Political History of Smack and Crack at Soho Theatre | Review

The Political History of Smack and Crack at Soho Theatre | Review

The Political History of Smack and Crack - courtesy of The Other Richard
The Political History of Smack and Crack – courtesy of The Other Richard

The Soho Theatre brings one of Edinburgh’s top shows of this year’s fringe to the London stage. Ed Edwards’ politically charged and aggressively poignant new play, about two addicts struggling with their rehabilitation and co-dependency, gives a frustrating look on heroin in the UK and its sudden rise during the Thatcher era.

Though very informative, this two-hander play focuses on its main characters and their journey more than the history of ‘Maggie Thatcher’s Brown’, and is all the better for it.

Based in Manchester we meet Mandy and Neil, as they recount and narrate to the audience their experiences and let us in on their impetuous lives. The duo, played by Eve Steele and Neil Bell respectively perform a quick-witted and humorous script. Their performances are energetic and engaging. You are drawn to their complex characters, especially Neil Bell who is immaculately cast. The story jumps from the past to the present constantly but the script’s transitions are well placed so the jumps themselves, add strong effect to some great storytelling.

The comparisons to Trainspotting have been a strong subject in write-ups, and they’re not wrong – the political punch is strong and the addiction engulfing our two characters is alluring and terrifying all at once. And of course, it is filled to the brim with Northern humour.

The play is powerful – and perhaps slightly too empathetic – but the message comes across loud and clear. The picture painted during the city riots in the early eighties is vigorous and we see Mandy and Neil in this vicious cycle of struggle and survival. So much so that they are now numb and use to it, unable to see ‘the light at the end of the tunnel’ at times. The unlikely pairing is sweet but we are foreshadowed constantly on how it’s not meant to be.

Cressida Brown’s direction is intertwined with Edward’s words and pleasantly choreographed. The show and its message seem like it should have arrived on the stage long ago. It now deserves the recognition it’s getting and more.

4 stars

Review by Tomm Ingram

Through cycles of addiction and recovery, The Political History of Smack and Crack uses the playwright’s own experience of narcotics dependency to examine how the politics of the 80s trapped people in poverty and addiction. This is particularly poignant and relevant in this time of political uncertainty and deepening inequality; the production allows us to consider past acts of rebellion against the status quo.

Following its run at Soho Theatre, The Political History of Smack and Crack will transfer to the city from which it was born, Manchester where it will play at the Mustard Tree – a local refuge providing care for people trapped by homelessness, dependency and poverty since 1994. Produced by Most Wanted and Offstage Theatre in association with W14 Productions and Alastair Michael and co-commissioned by Soho Theatre.

The Political History of Smack and Crack
Performance Dates Tuesday 4th – Saturday 22nd September 2018
Soho Theatre, 21 Dean Street, London W1D 3NE
Running time 60 minutes

Writer Ed Edwards
Director Cressida Brown
Sound Designer Jon McLeod
Lighting Designer Richard Williamson
Movement Director Kate Sagovsky
Producer Annabel Williamson, W14 Productions
Producer Alastair Michael
Cast Neil Bell and Eve Steele
Notes Ages 12+


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