Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Eve Steele: The Political History Of Smack and Crack

By | Published on Monday 10 September 2018

It would be hard not to be drawn in by a title like ‘The Political History Of Smack And Crack’ – I certainly was – but that’s of course not all this show has to recommend it. Recently completing a critically acclaimed run at the Edinburgh Fringe, the show is the work of Most Wanted, a new writing theatre company run by Eve Steele and Ed Edwards.

Their previous show ‘Life By The Throat’ was amazing (read our review here) and was written and performed by Steele, while this new show, authored by Edwards, features Steele in one of the two roles. Knowing the play was due a run at London’s Soho Theatre, I spoke to Eve at the end of their edfringe run to find out more.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the story the show tells?
ES: The show tells the story of two heroin addicts, Mandy and Neil, and their struggle to get and stay clean. It also goes back in history and looks at the start of the heroin epidemic in the UK, and how the riots in the early 80s occurred at a significant turning point.

CM: What themes does the play explore?
ES: The play explores addiction, love and how corrupt right-wing politics have crushed working class communities.

CM: Can you tell us about your role? What do you like about it, and how did you approach it?
ES: I play the part of Mandy. She’s warm, friendly, adventurous and seemingly happy-go-lucky, but underneath she’s fragile and messed up. When she discovered heroin, it felt like the answer to everything. I actually helped create this character, myself and Ed (Edwards, the writer) work closely together on most of our projects, and Mandy has featured in some of my own past writing. Each time she appears she’s slightly different. Ed’s made her more flirtatious!

CM: Can you tell us a bit about the playwright, your collaborator Ed Edwards?
ES: Where do I start…? I met Ed at a night club on New Year’s Eve a very long time ago and we had many a mad night out together. We were friends for years but only started working together when he directed a play I wrote and performed in, ‘Lub You’, in 2009. Ed wrote a couple of novels in his early writing days and soon moved into writing for TV and radio. But ultimately, he found it frustrating and wanted more creative control and freedom over his own work so he’s really happy to be writing for theatre.

CM: It sounds like there’s quite a lot that’s based on his real life experiences – do you feel it’s a very personal play?
ES: Sort of, although it’s by no means autobiographical. It’s about a subject that’s very important to Ed – he did used to have a problem with drugs himself and spent some time in jail as a result. When he was in there, the people he met and the stories he heard gave him an insight into the heroin epidemic in the UK and I think it began to burn inside him as a story that needed to be told.

CM: It’s set in 1981, of course, which I think we could regard as ‘historical’, now. Would you say it’s educational with regard to events of the time? How do you think contemporary audiences will relate to it?
ES: Part of the story is set in ’81, although most of it takes place today. There is an educational element, but we keep it dramatic too, it’s definitely not a lecture! So far audiences are seeming to really connect with it. I’ve spoken to people who were around in those days who are really interested to see pieces of the jigsaw coming together in a way they hadn’t realised before, and younger audience members seem equally interested in the historical side. This might be partly because of the effect it had on the youth back then, and partly because I think there is a great appetite for political debate among young people today. Especially among young people who book to see a show called ‘The Political History of Smack and Crack’!

CM: You’re just at the end of your Edinburgh run. How has the Fringe gone for you?
ES: It’s been great actually. It’s lovely being part of a festival, getting to see other work (I’ve seen some really great stuff), getting to meet other artists and catch up with artists you know but don’t often see, and the audiences have been brilliant. We’ve been really lucky that the press have seemed to like the show and we’ve had great reviews, but the best bit is leaving the venue after the show and people coming up to you to tell you how much they loved it.

CM: Shall we talk a bit about you, now? Did you always want to be a performer?
ES: I think I did really. As a little girl I wanted to be a ballet dancer (not very original I know!) but then I hit adolescence and became really angry and went from being a good girl to being bad! I suppose then the main thing I wanted to be was anarchic, but I did love drama at school. There was a time when I wasn’t going into many of my lessons and I was in trouble a lot, but drama was the one lesson I always (or nearly always!) went in for. I left school at 16 and was quite chaotic but I started an A-level in theatre studies at a college in North Manchester when I was 18. I dropped out of that course as I still wasn’t very stable, but my college drama teacher, Helen Parry, tracked me down and told me they were opening a drama school in Manchester. I didn’t have a clue about drama schools, but she found me two audition speeches and coached me leading up to the audition and I got in. I had a tough time there at first as I was a bit all over the place in my personal life, and I nearly got kicked out, but eventually I got my sh*t together and knuckled down. Thank you Helen!!!! She’s an amazing person who I know has made a difference in so many people’s lives.

CM: How did your career as an actor begin?
ES: When I left drama school I got involved with an all-female theatre company called Open Zip and we put a show together called ‘My Mother’s Full of French’. I don’t think we got much money, but we did a few performances in Manchester and London and it was a great experience. Then I got my first professional job at Contact Theatre and got an Equity card and from there I got a commercial, then a few little telly jobs and then a part on Corrie.

CM: You’ve a history of both TV and stage work – how do they compare?
ES: Whether it’s TV, film or theatre, the most important thing for me is a good script. If you’re not working with good writing then TV is definitely better as it’s over quicker and you get paid more! But if you’re in a play and the writing is good and all the other elements are there, good cast, good direction etc then it’s hard to beat that feeling of being live in front of an audience who are really listening to you, and you’re telling a story that you feel in your heart is important to tell. THAT is a good feeling.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
ES: I want to do more work with mine and Ed’s company Most Wanted. I really feel we can produce strong material which speaks to a broad range of people, and we aren’t afraid to make it entertaining!

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
ES: Well after we’ve done our Soho dates, we have a few weeks off and then take this show back home to Manchester and perform at a refuge called The Mustard Tree. But we’ve got another Most Wanted show called ‘Life by the Throat’, which I wrote and perform in (playing a man!) and Ed directs, and we are in discussion with a few people about putting that on next year so watch this space!


‘A Political History Of Smack And Crack’ is on at Soho Theatre until 22 Sep, see this page here for more information and to book tickets. 

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