Review by Pearl Esfahani
Both an education, and bittersweet love-story, the hour of The Political History of Smack and Crack flies by in a blink.
This simple, energetic story-telling hooks in the audience’s attention instantly. Bare stage, and some simple, but choicely lit moments by Richard Williamson, the only thing you can really rely on is Ed Edward’s quick-witted writing and driving performances from Neil Bell and Eve Steele.
You’d better be paying attention or you might miss something, this is important. It’s 1981, the UK is an unsatisfied place in flux. Manchester is the epicentre of anger, and the soundtrack is broken glass. The adrenalin of riots gives ‘spikes of ecstasy’. The cultural output of that era, and nostalgia-tinted glasses can give a romance about it all but this is a tragedy, a travesty even. We follow Neil and Mandy’s journey, jumping between then and now, on the streets of Manchester, and sitting in on Narcotics Anonymous meetings. Macro-level politics operate above our heads securing deals, but the only trickle down is ‘Maggie Thatcher’s Brown’.
From rebellion to sedation, Edwards puts forward an alarming theory of social cleansing. The relationship between Mandy and Neil is heartbreaking and perpetually unsatisfying as they spin in and out of each other’s vortexes, and the story ends rather abruptly. But then, the story isn’t over. I only have to walk down my local high street to see that. The simplicity of Cressida Brown’s direction allows this production to be easily taken out of the theatre and in to more informal settings. My only concern is that those important decision makers won’t be the ones that see this show. But you definitely should.