Monday, 16 July 2018

The Political Dramaturgy of Smack and Crack: Ed Edwards @ Edfringe 2018

'The history of England jumps off its axis. 2am, 8th July, 1981, 20 cities across England burn.' The night of the Manchester uprising. That night should change everything. Drawing on his own personal experience, Ed Edwards’ script crackles with anger, humour and authenticity as he chronicles the fallout for communities crushed by the heroin epidemic at the height of Thatcherism. Shot through with home truths about the road to recovery this is an epic love song to a lost generation.

What was the inspiration for this performance?

When I was doing three-and-a-half years in jail for drugs offences in the early 1990s, one of the scouse lads on the landing one night made a speech about the 1981 Toxteth riots that went something like this - "We’d taken Liverpool that night, the youth, it belonged to the youth that night, the city did, the cops had to fight their way back into Liverpool. Two years later I’m jumping over the counter of the local offie with an uzi trying to feed a habit.”

I’d always known that you couldn’t buy heroin on the streets of working class districts before the riot and these words stuck in my mind, gradually morphing with my experiences of recovery from addiction, to become this play.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

There are obvious class barriers to proper public debate, in that theatre (especially non-musical theatre) tends to be the preserve of the middle and upper classes in Britain these days. However with the budgets required for film, TV and theatre - and the unofficial but effective ban on political drama on Radio 4 enforced by the commissioner for the past several years Jeremy Howe - theatre is still probably the best forum for debate. You only have to look at the work of people like Chris Thorpe to see how effective/inspiring political/discursive theatre can be. 

How did you become interested in making performance?

Before drugs f**ked me up I’d always been interested in theatre since I stumbled into the Arts Theatre in Birmingham and saw a play by some obscure theatre company that I didn’t understand - but it blew my socks off anyhow! I thought ‘I could do something like that’ and decided there and then to become a writer. Even though I hadn’t got a clue about theatre, I’d been in punk bands and I kind of felt it was the next logical step.

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

Well after I went to Manchester Uni as a mature student to study drama and did their post-grad diploma in playwriting, I started to do a circus show - partly to earn the money I needed to carry on writing. We’d be going to parks in Hyton in Liverpool and if you didn’t make them laugh they’d invade the stage and nick all your gear. So, I learned how to really ‘put on a show’. 

This coupled with my own hyperactivity meant that I’ve
always seen theatre as a kind of circus, that needs that element of the spectacle to go with any story. So, I suppose I see theatre as a kind of circus really. I’m big on the need to entertain and thrill.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

I hope so. I’m not directing this one, even though I wrote it to direct myself, so I do think it has that potential element of circus about it and I think Cressida (Brown - the director) will be keen to exploit that as well as the more serious political/emotional messages.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

Thrills And Spills And Emotion And Enlightenment About The Need For Revolution! 

The Political History of Smack and Crack
Paines Plough’s ROUNDABOUT @ Summerhall, 
Friday 3rd – Sunday 26th August 2018 (not 7th, 14th, 21st), 17:30

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