We take a look at what critics have had to say about Kim Davies’s play, starring Meaghan Martin and Oli Higginson.
Everything Theatre: “This two-hander is carried along with real flair by both Higginson and Martin, whose delivery is slick and varied. They never get bogged down with the content and keep their repartee light and quick-firing, all with a certain naturalness, so the subtext becomes more apparent and thought provoking.”
The Arts Desk: ***** “So we’re left to make up our own minds, the production admirably denying us the comfort of easy answers in a culture that maintains an insatiable appetite for transgression and its subsequent condemnation. I am sure of one thing though – I’m glad I was 20 in 1983 and not in 2023.”
The Reviews Hub: ** 1/2 “It may be realistic, but Smoke just doesn’t quite justify its existence and there is no clear conclusion or consequences for anyone involved. Women do have complicated desires and fantasies; they go to BDSM parties and may, like the original Miss Julie consider dominant and submissive roles. Sometimes those women are exploited leaving them abused and manipulated without resolution. Davies play really wants to shock us and to push at the audience’s boundaries, but that doesn’t make it necessary viewing.”
London Theatre1: *** “Overall, I was honestly not that keen on Smoke. The story just didn’t work for me on a number of levels and the subject matter made me feel more uncomfortable than I expected. Thankfully, the superb performances did hold my attention and kept my interest in the show right up until the final moment at the end, when the lights went down. To summarise, for me, Smoke is a not-so-great story saved by the excellent skill of the two actors.”
London Theatre Reviews: **** “This production is a visceral insight into themes of consent, assault and power, layered effectively through a setting rarely risked shown on a stage. Though the BDSM world is fairly unknown to most it retains a universal relatability, no matter your personal preferences behind closed doors. SMOKE is flirtatious, funny and twisted, with sand forming the ash of the cigarettes the two participants share. This play could lose focus as the sexual nature intensifies but an inventive and wise creative team have crafted careful and safe ways to tell the story without the drama being compromised. A resounding success.”
The Spy in the Stalls: ** “As the play progresses the dilemmas darken considerably, yet the confusion remains. Perhaps there are no answers. Perhaps there is still much to be learnt. The BDSM setting seems to be a convenient backdrop to Davies’ drama, just as Strindberg is a starting point. But both seem superfluous. “Smoke” tackles important issues without breaking any real ground, allowing a certain pretentiousness to get in the way. Despite the heated and powerful performances, it shows that sometimes there is smoke without fire.”
British Theatre Guide: “When a production is in-the-round, some of the audience will always miss out and with the closing scene of Smoke it was my turn. Not seeing the final tableau has left me without a sense of closure, even if I do have lots to think about. A large part of me is holding out the hope that Davies broke away from the original and has Julie playing the game right to the end.”
All That Dazzles: **** “After this premiere at the Southwark Playhouse, I wouldn’t be surprised if further productions of Smoke were soon on the horizon. Bolstered by two exquisite performances, the content and staging may alienate some, but the strong characters and continued relevance will likely find it at least as many supporters as detractors.”
WhatsonStage: **** “Smoke assuredly won’t be for everyone: it’s strong meat that will give you a lot to chew over afterwards, but the staging is a thing of terse wonder, and Higginson and Martin are delivering two of the most exciting performances on any current London stage.”
Smoke continues to play at the Southwark Playhouse until the 25th February.