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Interview: Writer Ed Edwards on humour and politics in The Political History of Smack and Crack

Fresh from Edinburgh Fringe: The Political History of Smack and Crack draws on writer Ed Edwards' own experience of narcotics dependency to examine how the politics of the 80s trapped people in poverty and addiction.

Ed Edwards
Ed Edwards

Here the former circus performer talks about the importance of entertainment in theatre ahead of the play's London run at Soho Theatre.

Why is this an important story to tell?

In the political sense, I think it's a question for the progressive movement of knowing your enemy, of course, the enemy changes its face, but its heart remains the same. This is what they did then, what lengths will they go to now? It's a question too of spreading ideas, keeping the truth alive - it's part of what Fidel Castro called for before he died: a battle of ideas.

How important is humour when exploring serious topics such as drug addiction and what part does it play in the narrative?

I think entertainment is the most important thing, humour is a big part of that, but it doesn't mean you can't make people cry too.

You’ve written novels, for radio and TV as well as the stage but you used to be a circus performer - how does it compare?

It's a lot safer writing plays than juggling fire on a slack rope while talking to an audience - but probably not as much fun. Seriously, it's part of what I was saying before, about entertaining an audience.

If you're doing a circus show in Huyton Liverpool and you don't entertain the audience, the kids'll come and take your gear, so I've kind of grown up thinking that was important.

The Political History of Smack and Crack - courtesy of The Other Richard (4)
The Political History of Smack and Crack. Photo: The Other Richard

And how has it influenced you and prepared you for seeing your work performed?

I definitely like to see theatre as a means of entertainment as well as enlightenment. I always want there to be an element of spectacle in a show, whether that is something about the acting style or the method of presentation, I think it's important to wow the audience physically.

I like that myself and I fret about whether there is enough in a show. I hope there is in this one. I worry about that a lot, probably because I've got a very low threshold of boredom myself in the theatre.

You describe yourself as having been a semi-literate 11-year-old, what advice would you give aspiring writers?

Write theatre because no one can see the spelling. Seriously, in the end, it's just the way people speak and everyone knows that. Theatre is very accessible like that.

The Political History of Smack and Crack at the Soho Theatre upstairs until September 22 and you can read my review here. More details on performance times and tickets on Soho's website.

If you've enjoyed this interview you might also like:

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Dust: Milly Thomas on writing and performing a suicide aftermath play - Now on at the Trafalgar Studios 2 until October 13.