Caro Meets Spoken Word Interview Theatre Interview

Richard Marsh: Yippee Ki Yay

By | Published on Sunday 27 November 2022

It’s late November and all over the land people are debating whether or not ‘Die Hard’ is a Christmas film. Maybe. 

And those readers who are fans of the classic action movie may be quite pleased to hear that, at the same time, preparations are under way for a run at the King’s Head Theatre of a very special adaptation of it. 

The excellent Richard Marsh – who you’ll remember from him being a poetry slam genius and for shows like ‘Dirty Great Love Story’ – has created a funny, poetic retelling of the iconic film. It won much acclaim at the most recent edfringe and is to be staged again throughout the festive month.  

To find out more about the show, and the talent behind it, I arranged a quick chat with Richard ahead of the London run.  

CM: Can you start by telling audiences what they can expect from the narrative of the show? How is the story told? Is the ‘retelling’ faithful to the original plotlines in the film?
RM:Yippee Ki Yay’ is the movie ‘Die Hard’ retold as an epic poem. That may sound silly. It definitely is silly. It’s a faithful adaptation, but we’re having a lot of fun with the story, from a place of huge love for the film.

Audiences are going to get all of ‘Die Hard’ – all the iconic moments and characters and action – told by one actor playing lots of different parts from the movie.

For legal reasons I’m obliged to say it’s a completely unauthorised parody. But parody implies I’m not taking this seriously. I absolutely am. I say that as a former London poetry slam champion, Fringe First winner, BBC Audio Drama Best Comedy winner and New York cop… OK, one of those is untrue!

CM: How would you describe the show in terms of a genre? Is it purely comedy? Does it have anything serious to say?
RM: It’s definitely comedy but not purely comedy. In addition to the ‘Die Hard’-related silliness, there’s a lot of heart to the show, plus an additional story I’ve added in. A lot of people find it surprisingly moving.

It’s all my love for the film, and the cast, and also for fandom itself. I’m trying to retell the story of the film while also capturing the emotional experience of watching the film, both in the moment and over time.

Our experience of a piece of art changes as we ourselves change. When I first saw ‘Die Hard’ as a child, it was about a hero kicking arse. Now, watching as a parent, in mid-life, it’s about a marriage. I’ve done my best to bring that out in the adaptation.

CM: The all important question: Is ‘Die Hard’ a Christmas film?
RM: It is absolutely a film to watch at Christmas, but for me also one to watch at other times of year. If it wasn’t clear by this point, I am a massive ‘Die Hard’ fan!

To me, the Christmas film question comes from people, perhaps unconsciously, defining a Christmas film as one you can watch with children. I haven’t shown ‘Die Hard’ to my kids.

But other than that, it has all the classic Christmas film ingredients. Except maybe snow. That doesn’t appear until ‘Die Hard 2’.

‘Die Hard’ is actually a lot truer than a lot of Christmas films, which feed us images of perfect families having their perfect Christmas. ‘Die Hard’ is more honest than that.

The McClanes are separated and want to come together at Christmas, but their problems don’t magically disappear because the calendar clicks round to 24 Dec. ‘Die Hard’ acknowledges how hard it can be at this time of year. It’s loads of fun but also, deep down, it’s truthful.

CM: …and have you made this retelling Christmassy in any way?
RM: Yes, but I’m not saying how.

CM: We’ve established that you are a big fan of the film. But what inspired you to create this show?
RM: I’ve always loved the film. I’m not sure when the notion of telling it as a poem came about. A while ago, though.

For a long time it was an ‘I must do that when I have the time’ idea. It struck me as a very funny concept when it hit me.

Then, during the second lockdown, I was working on another play, which was decent but quite hard going, and I realised it was the wrong thing to be doing at that time.

I wanted to make a show that would be a lot of fun to do and hopefully a lot of fun to watch. The reaction we had at the Fringe makes me hopeful we might have succeeded.

CM: Ah yes, we heard great things about the show at the Edinburgh Fringe. Have you made any changes to the show since then?
RM: Yes we have. Edinburgh was a bit of a rush, due to all of us catching COVID during rehearsal. For this run, we’ve had time to smooth off and clarify certain sections.

Also there’s a piece of staging we couldn’t achieve at Edinburgh due to the quick get-in and get-out. I can’t wait to unleash that at the King’s Head.

CM: Can you tell us a bit about yourself, now? Did you always want a career in the arts? How did it all begin?
RM: I’m a writer, and an actor, and a dad. I write plays, poetry, radio, lyrics, and a lot of TV, but none of it produced yet. I spent lockdown mostly telling extended Tintin fan-fiction to my kids.

As a child, I used to love watching TV and films and I read a lot. I always loved writing, but didn’t think of the arts as a career until I was older – I used to make up stories for fun, like all kids do when playing, but I took it quite far. 

My mum had some musicals on vinyl, which I wasn’t allowed to touch, but she’d play them for me and I’d listen to the songs and read the synopses of the stories on the back.

Then I started writing stories for musicals based on the ‘Now!’ albums. I’d write a narrative containing every song on a ‘Now’ double album, in order. They’re all gone now, which is a huge loss for theatre and indeed the entire human race.

CM: What would you say have been the highlights of your career thus far?
RM: I wrote a one-person show, ‘Skittles’, which was my first real experience of acting and combining poetry and drama. It was broadcast on Radio 4 as ‘Love & Sweets’ and won a BBC Audio Drama award.

‘Dirty Great Love Story’, a poetry romcom which Katie Bonna and I co-wrote and co-performed, was a fantastic experience.

We wrote it in our flats, and the first performance of the first fragment of the show took place in the back room of a pub. It ended up winning a Fringe First, touring the UK and to New York, and having another production with a different cast. Excitingly, it looks like there’ll be more ‘DGLS’ news next year.

I wrote the book and co-wrote the lyrics – with Miranda Cooper and Nick Coler of Girls Aloud songwriting fame – for a musical adaptation of the brilliant British indy movie ‘Son Of Rambow’.

Being involved in writing songs is one of the greatest creative pleasures. When we’re sitting together and Miranda starts singing a melody that didn’t exist before that moment – it’s magic.

CM: What aims and ambitions do you have for the future?
RM: I’m writing a sitcom based on my childhood growing up in Somerset. My parents ran a smallholding and B&B, not entirely deliberately.

The show’s about a family living together and working together. Sort of ‘The Modern Family’ living at ‘The Office’.

CM: What’s coming up next for you after this?
RM: Right now we’re in the last week of rehearsal. So the first thing is opening the show and then getting round to buying some presents!

‘Yippee Ki Yay’ is on at King’s Head Theatre from 29 Nov-31 Dec. For more information and to book head to the venue website here.

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Photo: Rod Penn