Smoking Ban is a one-woman show that, in just over an hour, offers a sympathetic, funny and compellingly real look at the mucky heart of the tobacco industry.
A fingertip-to-toe actress, willing to bare all and unafraid to distort her Australian accent first into an American drawl and then various humorous British imitations.
Slipping through the curtains and into the shoes of a tobacco lobbyist is Carroll, a peppy American sporting a red dress, lipstick and plenty of sarcasm. With a welcoming smile Carroll gesticulates across the stage and fixes us with her ‘come hither’ eyes. As discerning adults the decision to smoke may well be our hands, but as critics of Carroll, we are putty. The speech ends and reality begins.
With the veneer of her work life put to one side, the audience is allowed into the troubled mind of a woman sodden with British drizzle and far away from home. Carroll is a professional. She is keen to please and even keener to succeed. But as the smokescreen dissipates, the addict’s headache creeps in and the thrill of over-the-boss’-desk debauchery gets a little lost. Past ghosts start to appear. Kate Goodfellow performs this gentle descent quite superbly.
With a range that stretches from bombastic to distraught, Goodfellow fills the little stage completely. She is a fingertip-to-toe actress, willing to bare all and unafraid to distort her Australian accent first into an American drawl and then various humorous British imitations. Best of this varied bunch is Jerry, the posh corporate twonk offering 4.5 million addicts a smokey teat and Carroll some after hours fun. As a caricature he is as humorous as he is repugnant.
If there is a flaw present within this show it is overeagerness to tackle meaty issues. From the diminished autonomy of our consumerist society to racism, sexism and moving away from home, the pace of the show sometimes renders playwright and director Jonathan Brown’s cutting observations mere narrative decoration. For a show so well considered and acted however, this is less a critical blow than a slight shame.