Stef Smith has written professionally since graduating from Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, where she studied Drama and Theatre Arts, in 2009. She is currently under commission the Traverse Theatre, the National Theatre Scotland, and the National Theatre.
CURRENT AND UPCOMING: ACTS OF RESISTANCE(Headlong Futures) HOW TO BUILD A NATION (Young Vic)
Her most recent play NORA received its premiere at the Citizen’s Theatre, opening the Citizen’s Women season. A bold and passionate adaptation of Ibsen’s Doll’s House, the production has been described as ‘explosive’ and ‘a perfect adaptation.’
Her play GIRL IN THE MACHINE received its premiere at the Traverse Theatre in 2017. This full-length version was commissioned following an initial 10-minute play, which was performed as part of the BREAKFAST PLAYS: TECH WILL TEAR US APART (?) series during the Traverse Festival 2016.
Her play BACK TO BACK TO BACK was part of the first trilogy of plays commission by Cardboard Citizens (and performed at the Bunker Theatre) as part of the Home Truths Season - exploring Housing from Victorian times to the present day.
Her play HUMAN ANIMALS received its world premiere in 2016 at the Royal Court Theatre in London as part of their 60th anniversary season.
Her Traverse Theatre Commission SWALLOW opened to widespread critical acclaim, and won a Scotsman’s Fringe First Award and the Scottish Arts Club Theatre Award, as part of the Edinburgh Festival.
In 2015, her play REMOTE has been performed across the country in 2015 as part of the NT Connections Festival. Also in 2015, her play AND THE BEAT GOES ON premiered in a Random Accomplice/Perth Theatre co-production and toured Scotland.
In 2014 Stef was part of the writing team for NEWS JUST IN at The Arches: a project created for the Commonwealth Games as part of the Glasgow 2014 Cultural Programme. Her Theatre Uncut play SMOKE (AND MIRRORS) was performed at the Traverse Theatre, in collaboration with Turkish theatre company DOT, in August 2014 and Stef was part of Team Effort!: a twelve-month collaborative project at the Southside Studios in Glasgow.
Her play CURED headlined the 2013 Glasgay! Festival and earlier in the same year GREY MATTER was produced at The Lemon Tree in Aberdeen, and WOMAN OF THE YEAR at the Oran Mor in Glasgow.
Stef wrote and produced an intertwining duologue entitled Falling/Flying for The Tron theatre in Glasgow. During this time she was awarded the 2011 New Playwrights’ Award by the Playwrights' Studio.
Also in 2011, Stef became writer on attachment with The National Theatre of Scotland, she also received Creative Scotland funding for her show THE SILENCE OF BEES, which was produced in April 2012.
Stef wrote the text for critically acclaimed and sell out 2010 show ROADKILL, which has won numerous awards including an Olivier Award for Outstanding Achievement in an Affiliate Theatre, a Herald Angel Award, the Amnesty Freedom of Expression Award, a Fringe First Award, a Total Theatre Award for Innovation, and the Edinburgh International Festival Fringe Prize. As well as Edinburgh, ROADKILL has been presented in London, Paris, Chicago and New York.
Stef recently worked as a mentor on Graeae’s WRITE TO PLAY programme and ran workshops for the West Yorkshire Playhouse in support of the National Theatre’s New Views programme. Following on from being part of the Royal Court Theatre’s National Writer’s Group in 2013, Stef has taught as part of their young writers programme.
Stef is an Associate Artist for the Traverse Theatre and has been selected for the 2017 BBC Writers Room Drama Room scheme, which aims to encourage and develop the best in new drama. She is currently part of Edinburgh International Book Festival’s programme, OUTRIDERS, which sends five multi-talented and very different writers from Scotland on five extraordinary journeys across the Americas. Further to this, Stef is working on the theatrical exploration of THE OUTRUN by Amy Liptrot as part of their Playing with Books events in August 2017.
- SWALLOW by Stef Smith
Stef Smith’s 'Explosive' NORA opens Citizen’s Women Season in Glasgow ★★★★★
Stef Smith’s highly anticipated adaptation of Ibsen’s classic text, NORA: A Doll's House, opened at the Citizen’s Theatre, Glasgow this week to standing ovations and high praise from both critics and audiences alike. NORA opens The Citizen’s Women season at the Citizen’s Theatre. NORA, written by Smith, also features the work of MLR Designer Tom Piper and Composition by MJ McCarthy.
‘On this dizzyingly brilliant two-hour journey through the arc of Ibsen’s story, driven by a subtly powerful musical score from Michael John McCarthy, the narrative passes between them with a strange and chilling ease, like the baton in some endlessly-repeating relay race of timeless female experience.’
‘On Tom Piper’s brilliant set for Stef Smith’s thrilling new 21st century perspective on the story of Ibsen’s A Doll’s House, three doorframes stand between the domestic space and the outside world.’
‘Three women walk through different doors at the start of Stef Smith’s revolutionary reimagining of Henrik Ibsen’s 19th century meditation on women, men and power. It is as if they have broken through the frames that captured their once-still lives to map out a brand new story for themselves in colours of rage, making history as they go.’
‘This makes for an explosive couple of hours in Elizabeth Freestone’s slow-burning production, which makes flesh of Smith’s writing on Tom Piper’s timeless-looking set.’
‘Michael John McCarthy’s brooding underscore that suddenly flares up into floor-shaking life.’
‘Nora: A Doll’s House does something new with a popular script, something we haven’t seen before; yet, at the same time, it is not so unorthodox that it loses a new audience. Someone who has never seen or heard of the original could see this production and be equally engrossed by it – equally moved, equally shocked – as if they had seen an entirely straight production of the classic that had a lot to admire technically and creatively. In many ways, it is a perfect adaptation.’
‘Smith’s update is smart and thoughtful, balancing a sense of feminist history and activism with the tightness of a thriller and some rich personal drama, all of which reveal its themes even more keenly.’
‘Every line in Nora: A Doll's House is so carefully constructed- it would be a delight to dissect and it is a joy to listen to.’
‘This production of Nora: A Doll's House is bold, exciting and gripping throughout.’
'it is a provocation infused with Ibsen’s radical spirit.'
Stef Smith’s BACK TO BACK TO BACK plays as part of the Cardboard Citizens’ Home Truths season
Stef Smith’s BACK TO BACK TO BACK plays as part of the Cardboard Citizens’ Home Truths season
Cardboard Citizens present an exploration of London housing at the Bunker Theatre in Southwark, directed by Artistic Director Adrian Jackson and Associate Director Caitlin McLeod. Stef Smith’s play BACK TO BACK TO BACK is part of Cycle One. The season runs there until the 13th May.
“Stef Smith’s Back to Back to Back, by far the most interesting of the trio”
“Smith is superb on the tensions between want and need, and what constitutes being rich or poor.”
“features plays from some of the UK's most exciting playwrights”
“with Stef Smith’s final play ‘Back to Back to Back’, things heat up a little.”
“it brings the crusading heft of the ‘Home Truths’ project into sharper focus.”
“Smith’s closely observed text deftly explores white flight, gentrification, and the simmering frustration of living in shit housing where the walls are just too thin.”
What’s On Stage
The third is the best of the night, and has Smith delicately focus on the layering of housing issues we face today. It's coherent and, crucially, very relateable.
“the time flying due to the wit and wisdom of the writing”
“ten playwrights provide a kaleidoscope of plots that resolve into a coherent clarity of vision”
Stef Smith’s GIRL IN THE MACHINE opens at the Traverse Theatre
Stef Smith’s latest play was first performed in an early version, script-in-hand, as part of the Breakfast Plays series during Traverse Festival 2016. The full length show is directed by Traverse Artistic Director Orla O’Loughlin and plays in Edinburgh until the 22nd April.
Edinburgh News ★★★★★
“a sinister story of love and addiction that revisits age old themes whilst thrusting them into a dystopian digital future in which the very essence of humanity, the human spirit, can be uploaded to ensure immortality.”
“thanks to Smith’s cut to the chase dialogue, the horrors of what that could ultimately entail is a far more viscerally realised.”
“A new piece of writing then, one that offers an hour and a quarter of theatrical bliss.”
The Guardian ★★★★
“In Stef Smith’s gripping two-hander, a piece of dystopian sci-fi in the manner of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror, flesh-and-blood humanity is not easily contained.”
“Smith tunes in to several of our contemporary concerns, including the centralising control of big data and the blur between work and home in an always-on digital world. She anticipates the ethical dilemmas that lie ahead, when we cross the divide between man and machine.”
“There’s more going on here than pure technophobia, however. Although The Girl in the Machine has an apocalyptic air, and plays on our fear of some malicious corporate unknown, it also considers the possibility of resistance and redemption.”
“an emotionally and intellectually intense two-hander about the shifting nature of our relationships to technology and human bodies.”
“a narrative that is at once both familiar and terrifying.”
“offers an interesting critique of recent movements towards integrating technology and ideas of “wellness””
“That Girl in the Machine exists and that Stef Smith has written it feels like a big deal, an event that this institution is thoroughly invested in.”
Herald Scotland ★★★★
“resembles an episode of dystopian TV series Black Mirror, but with a poetic heart worthy of Ray Bradbury at his warmest.”
“a show that hums and throbs”
The Stage ★★★★
“Smith invests this world with a rare intensity”
“There is a solid emotional base to the piece; it has a real authenticity, while the encroaching technological nightmare rings horribly true.”
“haunting and prescient”
Edinburgh Guide ★★★★
“Girl in the Machine holds up a vision of the future that poses vital questions of our time about dependence and addiction; about whether the virtual is valued over the real. This is a play that gets in to your head.”
“Smith’s script is poignant about the ways in which we neglect what is right in front of our eyes in favour of that which is mediated or enhanced.”
“Sydney and Dylan respond to Smith’s careful delineation of the wonders and limitations of love with tender and moving performances.”
“Stef Smith’s tense, engaging two-hander”
“the play manages to covey the sense of a still more frightening world beyond.”
“While our humanity is the thing that tears us apart, this thoughtful play suggests it is also the one thing capable of putting us back together.”
Stef Smith’s HUMAN ANIMALS opens at the Royal Court
Stef Smith’s latest play, HUMAN ANIMALS, receives its debut at the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, directed by Hamish Pirie and playing until 18th June.
The Independent ★★★★
“The disturbing and the dotty, queasiness and quirkiness mingle arrestingly in Human Animals”
“Stef Smith makes her impressive Royal Court debut”
“A very promising debut which the Court has done proud.”
“the tone deftly encompasses the horror (highlighted in the play's choric passages) and the slightly batty humour in this dystopian scenario.”
The Stage ★★★★
“an attractive blend of black humour and genuinely disturbing ideas”
“vivid and resonant”
“well written, imaginatively staged and thought-provoking”
Timeout ★★★★ CRITIC’S CHOICE!
“a blinder of a Royal Court debut”
“expansive vision of societal collapse.”
“a fascinating and gripping portrait of a world being ripped apart by human irrationality.”
“A huge strength of both the play and Hamish Pirie’s production is how resolutely ambiguous it is”
The Guardian ★★★★
“a powerfully alarmist piece.”
“Smith’s play adds dynamically to the Court’s concern with looming environmental catastrophe.”
New York Times
“As a metaphor for a society under siege, Ms. Smith cunningly taps into the fear of the other that courses through so much of the public discourse these days.”
Arts Desk ★★★★
“superbly written, wildly imaginative and thought-provoking play.”
“This vision of an ecological disaster is uncomfortably close to the bone.”
“choral sections which widen out our horizons and give the play an epic scope and a poetic feel.”
“The metaphors certainly have resonance”
“Smith shows how gradually a national emergency can develop, and how ordinary people can accept extraordinary situations. And while she shows how fear of infection can be used to spread panic and obedience in a population, she is also emotionally attuned to the power of resistance.”
“decidedly chilling, and enjoyably so”
London Weekly News ★★★★
“hugely clever morality tale”
“an intricate incite into human relationships”
“complex and yet utterly compelling everyday characters”
“Frightening, thrilling and thought provoking”
“this play highlights society’s inability to engage and the outright disinterest of the human condition.”
The Upcoming ★★★★
“Stef Smith has the audience witness the gradual eco-disintegration of society one failing at a time.”
“the play’s bloody, grubby atmosphere grows”
“It’s remarkable how much is done within spatial and temporal constraints of the play”
What’s On Stage
“a dark, surrealist parable with shades of JG Ballard”
“Smith's smart enough...seeking to understand, not just to condemn.”
“Human Animals is a behavioural study, one that examines our need to protect those closest to us, and it suggests that our fear of the other is driven by love of our own.”
“what seems initially like a straightforward analogy - outsiders as animals - shot through with mordant humour, blossoms into something richer"
“This is as much about Europe's migrant crisis as Syria's civil war - any environment that drives people out - and Smith swirls in ideas about homophobia, profiteering and the sustainability of activism.”
“Smith taps into two potent contemporary fears”
“skin-crawling and sharp.”
“a sinister picture of nature running wild and humans succumbing to ecological pressure.”
“asks us to rethink our relationship with other species — and ponder the divisions within our own.”
“dazzling flashes of humour”
“the longer Smith’s 75-minute play goes on, the better it unsettles on its own terms”
“a scope to Smith’s imagination that is winning”
“a memorably odd evening from a promising playwright.”
“thoughtful, unsettling play”
“Smith is able to humorously subvert the hysteria at the centre of the play. With each wall that is constructed, the difference between good and evil becomes less well defined.”
“The production builds to a fantastic crescendo”
Stef Smith’s SWALLOW opens at the Riverside Theatre in Australia
SWALLOW receives its Australian premiere as the debut show by the National Theatre of Parramatta and directed by former Artistic Director of Force Majeure, Kate Champion. Running until the 30th April.
"if National Theatre of Parramatta continues to program works like Swallow it is going to become a true force to be reckoned with. Letting this production set the tone for the company demonstrates an exciting beginning."
"Smith’s script is ambitious and her characters’ lives become slowly and satisfyingly intertwined."
"But the best thing about Smith’s play is its compassion."
“a powerfully moving story”
“The movement and language of the play is poetic and lyrical as the protagonists dance around their issues and each other.”
“an exciting production that challenges the audience to delve into their hidden psyche and question their role in a modern disconnected society.”
“hopefully, will establish this new company as another beacon for the arts in western Sydney.”
“a beautifully crafted play by a young Scottish playwright who manages to examine complex issues in a script that lends itself to innovation and experimentation.”
“gripping in every theatrical sense.”
“a compelling theatrical production that looks at some of the problems of contemporary society through the emotional clarity of Stef Smith’s words and characters.”
“certainly a promising beginning to NToP’s tenure at Riverside.”
“a stylistically and dramatically bold piece of theatre.”
“Kate Champion’s direction matches the writing in terms of inventiveness and whimsy”
“a very promising start for this company and a robust statement about the kind of work they’ll pursue.”
“brave and audacious play”
“a tough, terrifying, complex and conflicting play that demands attention. And this production is palpably arresting.”
“a smashing production – quite literally – and at base, is about three women renovating their lives.”
“A remarkable makeover in ninety minutes, Swallow is a refurb with reverb.”
“a poignant work that shines a spotlight on three of the psychological challenges that people can face”
“a complex, thought provoking play, presented with sensitivity, a degree of humour without mocking the experiences, and unique design.”
“indicates that the National Theatre of Parramatta…will seek to try new things and present a contemporary expression of the broader community.”
The Sunday Morning Herald – interview with Director, Kate Champion:
Casting announced for Stef Smith’s HUMAN ANIMALS!
A stunning cast has been announced for the upcoming production of Stef Smith’s latest play, which opens in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs at the Royal Court in May.
Natalie Dew, Ian Gelder, Stella Gonet, Lisa McGrillis, Sargon Yelda and Ashley Zhangazha are all to star in Smith’s drama about an overcrowded city where nature is getting out of control…
All 6 cast have performed at the Royal Court previously, and will be directed by Hamish Pirie in HUMAN ANIMALS.
World Premiere of Stef Smith’s HUMAN ANIMALS to open at the Royal Court
Following the recent success of Stef Smith’s SWALLOW, her latest play will be premiering in the Jerwood Upstairs Theatre from the 18th May 2016, as the Royal Court celebrates its 60th Birthday.
Announced today, HUMAN ANIMALS is Stef’s debut at the Royal Court and will be directed by Associate Director Hamish Pirie…
“Don’t go burying wild animals in my garden… or at least ask for permission first.”
In the overcrowded city, nature is getting out of control.
The mice are scratching between walls, the pigeons are diseased and the foxes are beginning to rule the streets.
The problem is growing. It’s contagious. It has to be stopped, before it’s too late.
“People can get used to terrible things. Very quickly. If they have to. It doesn’t take much for things to start to fall apart”