EDINBURGH 2019: PHOENIX Q&A
BWW catches up with Richard Marsh to chat about bringing Phoenix to the 2019 Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
Tell us a bit about Phoenix.
Phoenix is a new one-person comic musical about Ash Phoenix, a wannabe rock star who unexpectedly becomes a dad. It combines poetry, storytelling, dialogue and incredible songs with one actor playing four instruments like a magnificent rocktopus.
Where might we have seen both of you (Jessica and Richard) before?
You've probably heard Jess's songs. She writes and produces pop and country music. She wrote on about half of an album that went gold - Ward Thomas's Cartwheels. This is her first show at the Fringe, whereas I've been at the Fringe a lot!
I won a Fringe First a few years back for Dirty Great Love Story, which the incredible Katie Bonna and I wrote and performed together. That was a poetry romcom asking the question can a one-night stand last a lifetime? (Spoiler: yes).
My solo show Skittles, a story about love (and sweets, which are more reliable), played at the Pleasance, got picked up for Radio 4 and went on to win Best Scripted Comedy in the BBC Audio Drama Awards. Which means I now have a very heavy piece of glass and my mum has a picture of me standing next to Meera Syal.
I also wrote a poetry sitcom for Radio 4, Cardboard Heart, which had a blinding cast - Phil Daniels, Olivia Poulet, Jemima Rooper, Rebecca Scroggs, Russell Tovey, Sam Troughton and me. It's actually being repeated on Radio 4 Extra at the moment if anyone fancies a listen!
More recently I wrote the book and co-wrote lyrics (with Miranda Cooper, of Girls Aloud fame) for Son of Rambow, a new musical that ran at The Other Palace last year, is currently in workshops, and will hopefully return in 2020.
Why is this an important story to tell?
The protagonist, Ash Phoenix, has a child during the course of the story. No one talks about this, but children are a very real, ever-present issue today. Human beings just can't stop having them, and it's my contention we'll continue having them well into the future. Someone needs to tackle this issue. We are tackling it via rocktopus.
What do you hope audiences take away from it?
I hope they'll come out entertained, uplifted, having had a good laugh and a little cry and with our ear-worm tunes in their heads. I have no doubt they will come out in awe at the artistry and soul of Andy Gallo. The man is absolutely incredible. He plays guitar, keyboard and drums (often at the same time) as well as every part in the show. He's also learned to use a loop machine and on top of that he's arranged all the music, too. He's ridiculously talented.
Beyond the incredible circus feat of playing all these instruments, the show is built on emotional truth. There's nothing like holding a baby in your arms to make you feel both ancient and completely unprepared for the task ahead - for the life that becomes your life's work.
Ash Phoenix's dilemma is a very specific one (and one that allows him to sing a lot of banging songs) - but it's a problem all parents face: the need to earn money to look after your child, when earning that money takes you away from that child. It's a universal story, that we tell in a unique way. A coming-of-age story - for both father and son.
Ultimately I hope audiences leave with that emotional charge and connection. And a memory of Andy, playing guitar with his drumsticks, singing a howl of pain and joy for every mum and dad, every son and daughter, since time began.
What's next for Phoenix after the festival?
A long and distinguished life, I hope - but you can't really tell at this stage. So far we've had a fantastic audience response - people at Pulse telling us they saw forty shows in the festival and Phoenix was their favourite... producers getting in touch to ask us about touring possibilities... it's all really exciting.
But at the same time, this stage, the last few weeks before the fringe begins, is really nerve-wracking. You've sunk all your heart, craft, time and money into a show and you don't know how it's going to be received. It can feel like everyone but you has got buzz going, is in the 'shows you can't miss' articles etc. It's scary.
You have to trust the show you're making, and keep doing the work. I'm really proud of Phoenix, I'd like more people to get to see it, and to see Andy - and of course the longer it plays the more I'm able to buy my children food. But it's not really up to me any more. Most of Jess and my writing work is done now, it's really over to our director Lucy, and ultimately Andy. It's his show, and the audiences', now.
Pleasance 10 Dome
1.30pm (70 min)
Previews 31 July - 2 August £7
3-26 August (not 13) £11 -£13
For tickets; www.pleasance.co.uk @thepleasance 0131 556 6550 / tickets.edfringe.com @edfringe 0131 226 0026
Notes Age 12+