Edinburgh Fringe 2014
Venue: theSpace @ Surgeons Hall (V53)
A new one woman show, Smoking Ban centres around Carol, Health & Science Officer at Anglo American Tobacco and asks… what happens when the Smoking Ban goes all the way… to the Top?
Carol is whole heartedly committed to Anglo American Tobacco. She is thrilled to be the Health & Science Officer and spends some time convincing us that smoking is an adult choice, part of a varied and balanced lifestyle, and that ‘addiction’ doesn’t exist – that it is merely an excuse. Her commitment goes as far as making good use of the weekly free allowance of Anglo American products and providing Jerry, the MD, with a regular Tuesday shag.
Everyone in the organisation is a loyal user and business proceeds in a fog of Anglo American tobacco at every level… until the smoking ban arrives. Loyalties are tested throughout the building as old habits are challenged but never really die. But for Carol it begins a process of rethinking exactly what she values and why. Imperceptibly at first but with quickly gathering pace her world soon begins to fall apart.
This is a beautifully written solo show that takes what appears to be a clear cut story of a young woman starting to wonder about her role in the tobacco industry and takes it off in unexpected directions. Jonathan Brown, the writer, reveals the story gradually, avoiding exposition or polemic shifts with information slipped in skillfully and naturally. It is a challenging and thought provoking piece about one of the major public health issues of our time, but it is also an immensely powerful personal story of a young woman coming to understand and celebrate her roots and rethink her future.
Kate Goodfellow is a very strong and talented actress – a master of accents and lightning shifts between characters. She provides a convincing glimpse into the corporate life – a world where conformity is central to survival. The organisation is all, demands all. Her grasp of the material is masterful and the pace never flags as the doubts begin to appear and build towards the climax.
In some ways it is a piece that benefits from being in a small and intimate venue. We, the audience, are in the middle of the action all of the time and Goodfellow quickly establishes a rapport with us, taking in the entire auditorium as she addresses us. She also makes good use of every inch of the tiny stage. However, some of the characters felt a little cramped in the limited space and it is to Goodfellow’s credit that she managed to convey, for example, Jerry the MD who clearly has a large personality and a large office to sprawl in. The blackouts between scenes, although brief, were mostly unnecessary in such a small space – Goodfellow’s skill and versatility makes clear the shifts in time and space and there is so little room on the stage that she felt lost in the dark on occasions.
Overall this is an excellent solo show; Kate Goodfellow is a talented and versatile actress supported by powerful writing.