Halt! Who Smokes There? Fag or Faux?


So there I was musing in bed with BBC Radio 2 nattering away at me in the background, whilst my subconscious was thinking that at least on a Bank Holiday Sunday there would be no way I could become embroiled in anything… and then it happened.

Between the Host of the radio programme, Richard Madeley, and studio guest actor, Peter Egan, I was forced to grab the iPhone and correct a misnomer.

The two were discussing the issue concerning how silly it was now that smoking on stage was apparently illegal and that Peter’s current character, Sherlock Holmes at The Duchess Theatre in the West End, could no longer puff out smoke due to ” ‘elf and safety” and the Smoking in Public Places law.

As this is incorrect – at present – I felt compelled to at least let those two know that they were miss-informed, how was I to know that the little message was to become a point of discussion for the nation after the next record?

So what is the current law then?

Well actually it depends entirely on your place of production in terms of law. In Scotland the law states, not anywhere, never, not even on stage. In the early days this is where the Edinburgh Festival had problems with a Mel Smith show transferring from England (legal) to Scotland (illegal). Whereas in English Law, after relevant risk assessment documentation, the law does indeed still permit smoking on stage, but only when the audience is present! Yes that’s right for those of you who have theatrical backgrounds, you will now be thinking, well what about rehearsals? I know, and I haven’t made a mistake. No, you cannot smoke in a rehearsal, ever, anywhere in an enclosed public building. Only from the first public preview may an actor smoke on stage – unless of course your rehearsals are held in the open air….! strange but 100% true – very true. I have not mentioned Welsh or Northern Ireland law, because I have not had cause to ask there, but I speak with confidence about the English and Scottish law versions.

Because of such confusion and misplaced understanding, this is why producers now just place a blanket ban on smoking if the show is touring and wafting in and out of various nations, and who can blame them quite frankly? It is a nightmare, and it is a shame at least dramatically, that there is not one global rule for the United Kingdom, but we are a mixed environment and change is apparently good!

To overcome this, technical suppliers such as White Light Ltd., now sell exceptionally realistic faux fags (!) that look and emit the right smoke look. And legally too!

And so then after my digital outburst, I realized that Sir Terry Wogan was not reciting another fantastically risqu̩ version of Janet & John Рanother blog in the making Рas he was now on one of those long-term pauses.. so I got up instead!