Don’t Smoke in Bed @ The Pit (Vault Festival 2023)

A beautifully directed play about two flatmates navigating the aftermath of Jack’s unfortunate encounter with Mr Pandemonium. Set in a rundown flat permeated with mould the two friends share with an unknown number of furry lodgers; the drama unfolds as Jack enters with blood on his head. Don’t Smoke in Bed is a 1-hour play which explores the harrowing toll sexual violence can have on a person and those close to them. It tells the story of the initial stages of trying to cope when the perpetrator lives in your head and the finite patience of even our loved ones.

The play starts as it means to go on with the underground setting of the ominous, low-lit tunnels of the Vaults being a perfect choice for the world we enter, that of Jack’s living and claustrophobic nightmare. It begins with Molly interrogating the state that Jack is in. Jack is doing a good job of acting like the injury is incidental until Molly asks him to explain the marks around his neck. The silence is palpable as Jacob Seelochan slowly lifts his hands and tentatively traces a ghost of a hand around his neck. Moments like this, that focus on movement and physicality, are well choreographed throughout the play. It adds a gorgeous pace to an otherwise repetitive script that sometimes falls into student theatre tropes, such as the referencing of Paradise Lost.

Despite a strong concept and high production values, there are mixed messages in the play which can come across as being negligent given its serious subject nature. There are points which appeared to make light of sexual violence and justify the lack of empathy from a best friend which makes Molly’s character unlikeable and one-dimensional. She is judgemental about Jack’s anonymous sex life “I remember all the names of the people I’ve slept with”, pokes fun at his attempts of making art to process his trauma because he is using her art materials, “I’m the art student”, and derides Jack’s art as not being very good. It’s disappointing that the play ends without developing Molly’s character because there’s so much potential here on the intersectionality of friendships and  survival of sexual violence that I haven’t seen before.

Nonetheless, Don’t Smoke in Bed is a decent first attempt by playwright Harry McDonald. Diya Vencatasawmy’s stage debut is a success as she makes the most out of the eclipsing role in the self-indulgent world Jack lives in. Jacob Seelochan is also wonderful at playing the role of a tortured misguided artist taking the time with his delivery. Jacob demonstrates a range of emotions and holds the audience through Jack’s journey. Joseph Winer and Lu Herbert work together to create a visually stunning show in-the-round. It’s really satisfying when you get to enjoy the scene changes and given this was their first night, it makes it even more impressive.

This was my first Vault show so a warning that the benches aren’t too comfortable, especially if you’re well-endowed and have short legs, and mind the sound of the trains! There’s a great energy in the bars so don’t be afraid to strike up conversations with strangers – the Vaults is the perfect place to do it.

By Tasnim Siddiqa Amin.

Follow Tasnim on Instagram: @tasnimsiddiqaamin & WordPress.


Don’t Smoke in Bed is currently showing until Sunday 5th February 2023 at the Pit as part of this year’s Vault Festival. To find out more about the production, visit here…

Written by Theatrefullstop