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Smack and Crack returns to Moss Side - but in a good way...


Neil Bell and Eve Steele return in A Political History of Smack and Crack. Pic: The Other Richard
Neil Bell and Eve Steele return in The Political History of Smack and Crack. Pic: The Other Richard

Marking 41 years since the 1981 civil disturbances in Moss Side, Manchester, The Political History of Smack and Crack by Ed Edwards is back in the city and London this summer.

Again starring Neil Bell and Eve Steele – reprising their roles from the original production in 2018 – the award-winning drama will have a week’s run at Riverside Studios in the capital before heading to Manchester (July 4-9) at NIAMOS (formerly the Nia Centre) in Chichester Road, Hulme.

Two-time Offies nominee and winner of Summerhall’s Lustrum Award, the play takes a beady-eyed look at the reasons for the UK’s heroin epidemic of the 1980s-90s, inspired by the writer’s own experience in jail and rehab. This restaging recalls the events of 1981, reflecting on the civil unrest – an angry homage to a lost generation crushed by the heroin epidemic at the height of Thatcherism.

Edwards and audio producer Serafin Dinges are also developing a mini-audio series to provide deeper insight and analysis into the historical and political context of the show. This will be available online from early July.

Edwards said: "Most plays I’ve seen about heroin show the horrors and the degradation of the experience from the personal perspective, as if hard drugs have just fallen from the sky. We see some smackhead heading for the bottom and then getting better – again, as if by magic.

"I wanted to show two things differently. Firstly, that the smack – and in its wake, crack – didn’t appear from nowhere: both appeared at a particular time for a particular reason and that reason is political.

"Secondly, I wanted to deal with addicts in recovery – mainly because most of the addicts I know are in recovery – and I wanted to show the madness that goes along with stopping using drugs. I also wanted to depict a fucked-up relationship, because this is the only type of relationship I know. I wanted to make people laugh and make people cry."

The producers are continuing a four-year partnership with the charity Mustard Tree in Manchester, supporting its work in combating poverty and preventing homelessness across the city-region.

Alongside the play, NIAMOS is also involving local community and neighbourhood of Moss Side and Hulme with a programme of cultural activities, including workshops, a poetry event, guest performers and a musical jam session.