Tobias and Syd

Why is tobacco still so appealing and popular around the world?

Tobacco has a hold over so much of the world, why? To explore this question, 2BU Productions are proud to be making an audio drama podcast, called Tobias and Syd, plus a series of webinars about Tobacco, for in depth discussion.

About the play

Tapping into desire itself,  this romance of smoke and time travel is a 3 part audio-production in the making, which explores the alluring and devasting effects of the global tobacco usage.

Join us for our first open online event

Join us in discovering more about this hot smoky subject, and stay for the discussion. Book here for the live performance, online, of the first draft of the script on Tuesday June the 7th.

Link coming! Save the date!

This will be a 1xhour performance 6.30 – 7.30pm

And we’d love you to stay for the Q + R at 7.30-8pm

Can you resist this...?

Tobias and Syd is Inspired by...

Anthropology of Tobacco, Andrew Russell’s excellent book.

Tobias and Syd - beginnings

‘Tobias and Syd’ is a play written by Elspeth Penny based on ideas and research contained in Professor Andrew Russell’s book Anthropology of Tobacco (Routledge, 2019).  Elspeth invited Andrew to give a talk at The Tobacco Factory in 2020, as part of Life of Breath’s End exhibition, Catch Your Breath. 

Tobias and Syd gets voted in

Elspeth secured Arts Council England funding for a project in which three plays were authored for possible selection for further development as a podcast. Over just over two days, the plays were explored in improvisations, with actors Chris Pirie and Kirsty Cox. We also had visits from composer Matt Sheeran, artist Vanessa Moody and clinican Barny Hole.

At a workshop at ‘The Puppet Place’, Bristol, on 15th February 2022 the three plays were given a ‘scratch’ performance by three actors.

“That was really good, very entertaining, it was an impossible task mind, wasn’t it, they’ve all got something” Paul Appleby, ex BBC Wildlife.

Tobias and Syd, however, was voted #1 for podcast development by the audience. ‘You’ve got to make that play’ Dr Barny Hole, our kidney doctor friend generously said, in spite of it meaning that we’d not take ‘Letter to My Kidney’ further just yet, a play based on his research.

What an engaged and informative discussion though – feedback from this event is informing all the three projects.

Andrew and Elspeth then invited Dr Alice Malpass to join the team as an evaluator and we applied for some funding from Durham University ESRA IAA fund, to live record the play (rather than record it online), plus to make accompanying videos and webinars. We got the funding.

What's the story of the play?

Well we can’t say too much at the moment! It’s currently in it’s first draft – but it is hot and smoking! It’s a love story and a story of devastation.

The play may also contain extracts from ‘Letters to My Breath’, research conducted by Alice and Elspeth on the interdisciplinary, Wellcome-funded ‘Life of Breath’ project within which Andrew Russell also collaborated (a joint Senior Investigator Award led by Prof Jane Macnaughton – Durham and Prof Havi Carel – Bristol). 

Who is involved?

We’re super lucky to have excellent advisory links and connections. This includes –

Creative Team

Sara Davies, Dramaturgical/Executive Producer and former BBC Producer

Iain Hunter, Sound Producer and Editor on ’The Archers’

Elspeth Penny, Writer and Director

Miles Chambers, once Poet Laureate of Bristol, will be creating some additional material for us
Advisory and webinars
Professor Andrew Russell
Dr Alice Malpass

Co-producers. We have a growing team of advisors/co-producers on the project, and can’t wait to tell you about them.

Additional thank yous for all the wider help, support, David Richmond, Deasy Bamford, Andrea Hernandez, The Island, The Puppet Place, Theatre Orchard, Heather Wright, 2BU’s non executive advisory board,  Fiona Matthews, Paul Appleby, Barny Hole, Justine Schneider.; Innovate Edge Uk, Lois Barton.

Want to be involved? Let us know, email Elspeth or Lois at

What next for Tobias and Syd?

We’re in the planning stage. There will be a combination of studio-based and location recordings. We’re still building collaborations.

Tobias and Syd is funded by Arts Council England and Durham ESRA IAA fund and is being made by 2BU Productions

Follow the project using this QR code: