The Big Smoke


The United Solo Festival, in New York City USA celebrated the completion of its longest festival to date Nov. 23 with its award ceremony. Running 10 weeks, from Sept. 18–Nov. 23, the festival played host to 130 productions in its fifth year. We were already proud to present Theatre Ad Infinitum’s The Big Smoke, performed by Amy Nostbakken and directed by Nir Paldi as part of United Solo. But we were thrilled to find out that The Big Smoke picked up the Award for ‘Best International Show’ this year. Congratulations to Nir and Amy! You can read more about the festival and other award winners here.

About The Big Smoke

The Big Smoke is an award-winning one-woman show inspired by the work and lives of Virginia Woolf, Sylvia Plath and Anne Sexton.

In a courageous physical performance with a completely original text and score sung a cappella, Amy Nostbakken tells the story of a brilliant young artist from Toronto given the opportunity of a lifetime: a solo exhibit at London’s Tate Modern Art Gallery. Nathalie has everything to live for: good looks, talent, a loving family, amazing scholarships and a career just waiting to take off. But just as she is rising to the heights of her potential, she begins to spiral down into the depths of depression. Through swanky gallery parties and grim pub toilets, ex-boyfriends and meddling aunts, mauled dogs and crashed cyclists, her descent into madness unfolds. The Big Smoke is a stunning experience that walks the fine line between sanity and psychosis.


How it started…

The Big Smoke began as a scratch performance at the Blue Elephant Theatre in London 2010. With the support of Redbridge Drama Centre and The Lowry and a beautiful farm house in Ottowa, Canada, the 15min experiment was developed into a full length piece, and the world premiere took place at the Pleasance Jack Dome as part of the 2010 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

Following the critically acclaimed run in the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2010 and an Argus Angel Award winning UK Tour in 2012, The Big Smoke premiered in Toronto, Canada at the Factory Theatre February 21 – March 4, 2012 in association with Why Not Theatre where the reception from audiences and critics was wonderful.




Nominated for a Canadian Dora Mavor Moore Award – Outstanding Performance by a Female | Nominated for a Manchester Theatre Award Best Studio Performance 2011 | Argus Angel Award Winner 2011 | Nominated for The Latest 7 Best Female Performer Award 2011 | The Scotsmans Best of the Fringe 2010 | Critical acclaim: five and four star reviews across the board

UK and Canadian Reviews:

National Post (Canada) 
“An extraordinary vehicle for portraying a mind on the edge, … Technically, the performance is a marvel; emotionally, it’s a disturbance. It closes tomorrow, and is well worth grabbing.” – To read the full review by Robert Cushman, click here, you will need to scroll down to the final paragraph of the round up!

The Observer ‘This play was excellent…‘ Click here to read full review

The Scotsman * * * * ‘Last Fringe, Theatre Ad Infinitum wowed us with its epic one-man show, Odyssey… Well they’ve done it again, this time with female actor Amy Nostbakken’ Click here to read full review

Stage Door (Canada) – * * * * 
“Nostbakken’s performance is absolutely extraordinary… What makes the show so extraordinary is the darkness of its content and the exuberance and precision of its form. It is the story of the loss of voice in a medium that celebrates voice. For the adventurous theatre-goer, this is a must-see.” – To read the full review online click here.

What’s On Stage – * * * * * ‘This performance left me transfixed, overwhelmed and weeping. Utterly stunning’ Click here to read full review

Total Theatre Magazine – ‘I search for the words to describe it as it takes such an extraordinary form…‘ Click here to read full review

To see a list of quotes and links to full online reviews visit our awards & reviews page.

Audience Feedback from the Canadian Premiere:

“Amy’s piece is an offering on behalf of all of us, but particularly those who have ventured too close to the sirens, or flown too close to the sun.” – Dan Yanishnsky

And other audience members:

“Your show was incredible and I am not saying this lightly! It took my breath away and the magic of it has not worn off.”

“I have lost all words I just know that I have never in my life been so utterly mesmerized”

“…with shows like this one, the Toronto theatre scene is finally heading in the right direction…”

“what a brave and bold, beautiful piece. Thank you. Images and other pieces are still haunting me…”

Production Credits

The Big Smoke was co-devised and co-writen by Amy Nostbakken and Nir Paldi | Directed by Nir Paldi | Music and performance by Amy Nostbakken | Costume by Clare Amos | Lighting Design by Peter Harrison | Press and PR by RMComms | Publicity by Helen Stewart | Photography by Ryan Garside

Tour History of The Big Smoke


4/5 July | Previews at Pleasance Islington, London

3 – 29 August | Pleasance Jack Dome, Edinburgh Festival Fringe


28 March | Rose Theatre, Edge Hill University, St Helens Road, Ormskirk, Lancashire L39 4QP | 7.30pm | click here to visit their website

13 April | Rose Bruford College Annual Symposium 2011, Sidcup, London DA15 9DF | 9pm | clicking here to visit their website

28 April | North Wall, Oxford, South Parade, OX2 7NN | 8pm | click here to visit their website

6, 7, 8, 10, & 11 May | Brighton Fringe at Upstairs at Three and Ten, 10 Steine St, Brighton BN2 1TE | 6-8th 5pm, 10-11th 8.30pm | click here to visit their website

12 May | Aberysthwyth Arts Centre, Aberystwyth University Penglais Campus, Aberystwyth, Dyfed SY23 3DE | 7.45pm | click here to visit their website

23 – 24 May | Theatre Royal Bath, Sawclose, Bath BA1 1ET
| 8pm | click here to visit their website

31 May | Physical Fest at Unity Theatre, Liverpool, 1 Hope Place, Liverpool, Merseyside L1 9BG |
8pm | click here to visit their website

9 June | Carriage Works, Leeds, 3 Millennium Square, LS2 3AD
| 7.45pm | click here to visit their website

14 June | Red Bridge Drama Centre London, Churchfields, E18 2RB | 8pm | 
click here to visit their website

23-25 June | The Lowry, Pier 8, Salford Quays, Greater Manchester M50 3AZ
| 8pm | click here to visit their website

30 June | Norden Farm, Maidenhead, Altwood Road, West Berkshire SL6 4PF | 7.30pm | click here to visit their website


21 Feb – 4 March | Factory Theatre Studio, Toronto, Canada | 8pm, Sunday matinee’s 2pm | click here to visit their website

28 – 29 April | In The Soil Arts Festival, The Sullivan Mahoney Courthouse Theatre, St Catherines Ontario, Canada | 9pm and 2pm | Click here to visit there website

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