Caro Meets Theatre Interview

Richard Marsh: Wingman

By | Published on Friday 29 August 2014

Some members of the ThisWeek team have recently returned from Edinburgh where we’ve been busy covering the Festival for our sister publication ThreeWeeks Edinburgh. One of the plays we heard good things about was ‘Wingman’, by award winning (don’t forget that) writer and slam poet Richard Marsh.


But, just because the Fringe has ended, doesn’t mean the show is over. The play begins a run at Soho Theatre next week, so I caught up with Richard to find out more about the piece, as well as his plans for the future.

CM: What is the central premise of the show?
RM: Wingman is a comic drama about an estranged father and son, who haven’t seen each other for twenty years when they’re forced back into each other’s lives. Both want to escape the other’s company as quickly as possible – and conspicuously fail to do so. The story shows that no matter how bad life is, family can make it worse.

CM: Where did the idea come from? Is there any element of personal experience behind it?
RM: It struck me that your dad trying to be your wingman would be incredibly awkward – and very funny. At the same time, a lot of my friends were having children but I wasn’t a father myself. I wondered what fatherhood would be like, so I spoke to a lot of people were kind enough to talk to me about their childhoods and / or their children. I then combined the comic wingman plot with a story about fatherhood – and (after a lot of rewriting) the play was born.

CM: The script is a mixture of prose and poetry, isn’t it? What made you decide to write it that way?
RM: I love poetry, and I think it makes it interesting for the audience to hear dialogue, poetry and comedy combining to tell the tale of the play. I use rhyme both to express what my character is feeling and to bring the various locations the characters visit to life – what I call screenwriting for the ears. If I’ve done my job right, hopefully the audience will build the set in their minds, much as you do when reading a novel.

CM: How are transitions made between the poetry and the prose? How easy is it to perform?
RM: I just switch between them. Some of the poetry rhymes, and some is more about the rhythm of the words. I quite like it when audiences aren’t immediately sure whether it’s verse or not. I’ve been performing my own poetry for a while now. What’s that, have I won any awards? Yes, I was the London slam champion a couple of years back. It’s important to me that the audience be entertained – whether through language, humour, an interesting plot, or the detail of human character as people make difficult decisions on stage – and I see the poetry as one aspect of that, while hopefully moving people as well.

CM: What’s it like performing your own words?
RM: I think it’s mostly good, though you probably need to ask our director, Justin Audibert. I tend to rewrite a lot, so occasionally me-the-performer can get frustrated when me-the-writer writes new lines, but my two selves mostly get on well. I talk to myself all the time when I’m writing, putting on voices and expressions for the different characters, so the main problem I have is getting funny looks while I’m writing in cafés or on the tube.

CM: How was your edfringe experience this year? Have you been before and will you go back..?
RM: I’ve been there several times before, most recently in 2012 with ‘Dirty Great Love Story’, which Katie Bonna and I co-wrote and co-performed together. This year was much wetter than 2012, but Jerome Wright (who plays my dad in the play) and I had a good experience with ‘Wingman’. People enjoyed the show, and we played to full houses for most of the run. I will definitely go back – whether as writer, performer, or audience member I don’t know yet.

CM: Will the show continue to tour after the London run?
RM: Yes – we’re heading to the Theatre Royal, Margate, the Pegasus in Oxford, Sheffield Crucible and the Nuffield, Southampton, at the Apples & Snakes 451 poetry night. All the tour details are on my site.

CM: What’s next for you? Any new projects planned?
RM: I’m writing a poetry sitcom for Radio 4, and we should be recording that just before Easter. It’s produced by Ben Worsfield, who also produced my first solo play, ‘Skittles’, for Radio 4 last year (as ‘Love & Sweets’, name changed for copyright reasons). Did it win an award? Wow, you guys are obsessed with awards. Yes, it won Best Scripted Comedy in the BBC Audio Drama Awards 2014.

I’m also co-writing a musical for the Nuffield Theatre, and working on a time travel screenplay with all-round sci-fi legend Gavin Rothery (He designed ‘Moon’. Check out his new short Archive if you get the chance).

‘Wingman’ is on at Soho Theatre from 2-20 Sep. See the venue website for details and tickets.

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