Plays by Stef Smith

Girl in the Machine

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stef Smith's play Girl in the Machine is a dystopian drama exploring our potential digital future, and what it might mean for 'life' as we know it. The play was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 5 April 2017.

The play is set 'not too far into the future', in a house belonging to corporate lawyer Polly and her husband, Owen. Polly has recently been promoted, and spends most of her time working, so Owen presents her with a new gadget, 'Black Box', to help her relax. Black Box is a headset that offers virtual reality experiences that are both seductive and addictive, communicating by spoken voice. As Polly slides inexorably into digital dependency, it becomes apparent that, beyond the isolation of this apartment, people are rising up in protest at the new technology and its increasing hold over human life. Polly and Owen are forced to question whether their definitions of reality and freedom are the same.

The premiere production was directed by Orla O’Loughlin and designed by Neil Warmington. It was performed by Michael Dylan as Owen, Rosalind Sydney as Polly and Victoria Liddelle as the voice of Black Box.

Human Animals

Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stef Smith's play Human Animals is a dystopian drama about life in a world where London has become infested with animals. It was first performed at the Royal Court Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, London, on 18 May 2016.

In a series of short scenes, most of them dialogues between two characters, Smith obliquely builds a portrait of a London so plagued by foxes, mice and pigeons that roads are closed, parks burned and curfews imposed. The play's focus is on the effect this has on the city's residents: the relationship between middle-class widow Nancy and her daughter, Alex, who wants to protect animal rights; a young couple, Lisa and Jamie, who find themselves in opposition when it comes to the mass-destruction of animals; the closeted John (Nancy's neighbour) and his relationship with Si, who works in chemical distribution and has been cut off from visiting his daughter by the closure of roads crossing the river. Interwoven with these scenes are choric lines, presented in italics in the script, that are intended to be spoken by 'any cast member [or] simultaneously by multiple performers'.

The Royal Court premiere was directed by Hamish Pirie and designed by Camilla Clarke, with Natalie Dew as Alex, Ian Gelder as John, Stella Gonet as Nancy, Lisa McGrillis as Lisa, Sargon Yelda as Si and Ashley Zhangazha as Jamie.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stef Smith's Remote is a play about protest, power and protecting yourself. It was commissioned as part of the 2015 National Theatre Connections Festival and premiered by youth theatres across the UK, including a performance at the National Theatre in July 2015.

The play's action is set in a park: it 'can be set in any park. The staging can be simple or complex and is open to the interpretation of the group'. A girl called Antler has climbed a tree, hoping not to be found. She has even destroyed her mobile phone. Over the course of one autumnal evening, seven lives intertwine as they make their way through the park. Lines of dialogue in the script are often left unattributed to any particular character, but are delivered as if by a chorus, commenting on (and often narrating) the action, and also allowing for a great deal of flexibility in the casting. 'The smallest number of performers this play could be performed with is nine. There is, however, no maximum number'.


Nick Hern Books
Type: Text

Stef Smith's Swallow is a play about three women dealing with psychological trauma, and striving for a fresh start in life. It was first performed at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, on 9 August 2015 as part of the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where it received a Scotsman Fringe First Award

The play's action takes place in the subjective worlds of its three female characters, which occasionally overlap, their monologues resolving into dialogue. 'There are no stage directions, imagine it as you wish.' Anna hasn’t left home for months; she has stopped eating and is smashing her flat up bit by bit. Rebecca is so furious that her ex-partner has found a new love that she turns that anger on herself. Sam is taking her first steps towards becoming the man she feels herself to be; in doing so, she exposes herself not only to abuse but to the chance of genuine warmth and affection.

In a foreword to the published script, Smith writes: 'The first draft of the play was written quickly and intensely, it just poured out onto the page. It was a play born of my absolute anger and anxiety that the world wasn’t the place I felt it could be. ... I’ve never doubted that we all wrestle with the chaos of deep, dark, hard things. We behave badly, drink too much, sleep too little, punch walls or pull our bodies apart. Rarely are we given the healthy tools that enable us to deal with this chaos. And yet, and yet, deal with it we do – we still get up the next day. And that’s one of the main things that Swallow looks at – the chaotic ways in which we continue.'

The Traverse premiere was directed by Traverse Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin and designed by Fred Meller, with original music by LAWholt. It was performed by Sharon Duncan-Brewster as Sam, Anita Vettesse as Rebecca and Emily Wachter as Anna.

Stef Smith is a playwright whose work includes: Human Animals (Royal Court Theatre, London, 2016); Swallow (Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, 2015); Remote (NT Connections 2015); And The Beat Goes On (Random Accomplice/Horsecross); Cured (The Arches, Glasgow); Woman of the Year (Òran Mór); Grey Matter (Lemon Tree, Aberdeen); Falling/Flying (Tron, Glasgow); Roadkill (Edinburgh Festival Fringe, 2010 & 2011).
Awards include: Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, Critics Award for Theatre in Scotland for Best New Production, Amnesty International Expression of Freedom Award, Herald Angel Award, Total Theatre Award for Innovation, The Scotsman Fringe First Award (Roadkill); Scottish Arts Club Theatre Award for Drama, The Scotsman Fringe First Award (Swallow).
She has been awarded the New Playwright Award by Playwrights Studio, Scotland. Stef was a member of the Royal Court National Writers Group in 2013. She is an Associate Artist at the Traverse Theatre.