Review: The Political History of Smack and Crack

Offstage Theatre
Summerhall – until August 26th
4 Stars (4 / 5)

The Political History of Smack and Crack┬áis a fast-paced two-hander about two Mancunians, Mandy (Eve Steele) and Neil (Neil Bell), and their journey through a heroin addiction. Written by Ed Edwards and directed by Cressida Brown, the story is told with absolute sincerity, laced with pain and humour that characterises the confusion, desperation and fighting spirit of 1980’s Manchester. Amidst conspiracy theories, anti-Thatcher sentiments and drugstore robberies, Steele and Bell perform with an us-against-the-world spirit, drawing the audience into the complicated love story between Mandy and Neil, which in itself is a political statement.

This play is personal, dark, and paints a hauntingly accurate portrait of a specific region at a specific point in time. There is no set but Steele and Bell make use of the space, augmented by Richard Williamson’s lighting design that seems to emit an energy of its own. The only shortcoming of this production is that at the end of the day, it is nothing exceptional, unexpected or revelatory. Perhaps its power lies in its simplicity and nothing more.