Review: The Political History of Smack and Crack

The words “political history” are not the most enticing to see on a poster at a theatre. But smack and crack? That’s how you sell tickets. Ed Edwards two-handler intertwines a love story, stories of addiction, and a history lesson into a little over an hour.

There’s a lot to take in, but Edwards’ cleverly structured narrative flows seamlessly from one element to another. The boundaries of the personal and political are blurred, to create a story that works on an emotional level, but also alerts the audience that the relationship between those in power and those who feel the consequences of their decisions is not as distant as we might think. Though entertaining, the more poignant moments of the play are undermined by the bouncy pace. The audience isn’t given the space to take in the potentially impactful twists of the story. It doesn’t detract from how entertaining the show is but holds it back from becoming anything more.

The characters of Neil and Mandy, performed by William Fox and Eve Steel, are well fleshed out. Their performances of being desperately intoxicated are uncanny in their disturbing familiarity; they embody so many people we encounter on the high street of every city in the country. However, perhaps as a result of having a successful Fringe run, the performances have become too polished for their own good. Fox and Steele breeze through the performance so that it seems just a little too mechanical, a little too knowing, for the audience to become properly invested in the action. They cut off their dialogue to break character (though still in a way representing them, almost like playing their own lawyers) to elaborate on a particular aspect of their history or a particular feeling that their character is experiencing. Though it creates an intriguing tiered system of character and narration, it leaves the dialogue disjointed. Rather than watching characters unfold and reform as they battle their personal demons, we spend more time being told about how they unfold, reformed, and battled their personal demons. Three stars.

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