The Playgoer: Smokin' Theatre

Custom Search

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Smokin' Theatre

An amusing story out of the Edinburgh Fest...

British actor and comedian Mel Smith (remember Alisa Smith & Jones?) is causing a...uh, firestorm over his insistence on smoking cigars on stage during his show, despite Scotland's harsh new anti-smoking laws. He has a good reason, though--his one-man show is about Winston Churchill!

(see photo)

While England's strict new regulations have indeed California-ized the very resistant pub scene, for instance, at least theirs exempts some public places such as arts venues. Scotland does not. No, not even for "herbals"--the common substitution in the rest of the smoke-free world. (When was the last time a New York actor smoked a real cigarette on stage...?)

Mel's fitfully tactful response?

"It would have delighted Adolf Hitler. Adolf Hitler, as you know, was
anti-smoking. You couldn't smoke at Adolf Hitler's dining table, so he'd be
pleased, wouldn't he? Congratulations Scotland."

For all this, and more than you'd ever care to know about the finer points of onstage smoking, the Guardian has it all.


But, unlike similar prohibitions elsewhere, Scotland's ban forbids even herbal cigarettes, or indeed any "lit substance" in an enclosed public space. The only remaining alternative, say protestors, are unconvincing fake fags, with their billowing plumes of talcum powder.

So why didn't Scottish legislators, like their counterparts in the US and Ireland, either exempt the performing arts entirely or allow the use of herbal cigarettes on stage and on film sets? According to Tomek Borkowy, director of Hill Street Theatre and a high-profile campaigner against the ban, "the city council told me that herbal cigarettes couldn't be allowed because it would make the ban too difficult to police. But that's not my problem, that's an administrative problem."

Please don't flood my Comments box with "fake fags" jokes.

1 comment:

Andrew said...

I'm performing at the Hill Street Theatre now, and Tomek is indeed in high dudgeon about it. But it is ridiculous, frankly. If it's a public health measure, no one's endangered by one or even several cigarettes smoked on stage during a show. As for Mel Smith, he lit up during one preview, but that's been all, so far.