Last week I saw two different pieces by writer/performers who used poetry. I had some questions about the plays and their style which I got a chance to ask. Yesterday I published Andrew Maddock's answers about The Me Plays and today it is Richard Marsh's turn whose piece Wingman is currently playing at the Soho Theatre.
1. Describe your play in a Tweet (140 characters)
Mum’s dead. Annoyingly, dad’s not. This comic drama mixes poetry & prose to remind us: no matter how bad life is, family can make it worse.
2. How much of the story is autobiographical and where else did the inspiration come from?
I prefer to let the audience make up their own minds, but I’ll happily discuss it over a pint after the show.
3. What are the challenges of using verse and what do you think it adds over prose?
Very simply, verse is a lot more time-consuming to write. For me, writing poetry involves digging down to the exact thought you or the character are trying to express, then finding a way to express that which rhymes, has a rhythm, or a certain wonder to the words. Or all three. And that you haven’t heard before, and that moves or amuses or opens up something you hadn’t previously known but seems obvious now the words have brought you to it.
Of course, that’s quite hard. Both to do well, and to do at all. So if you come to rewrite (as I occasionally will) that is a lot of work to go back and redo.
It’s very labour-intensive, but when a writer does it well, it can be marvelous.
You’d probably have to ask our director, Justin Audibert, which comes harder to me. I love them both, and find them both hard in different ways.
When writing you get to create a world – but you’re navigating that world without a map. The script gives the actor a map – but they still choose how to cross the territory. (Although, as Jerome Wright who plays my dad will tell you, the map can change…). Writing is generally more solitary and performing is generally a collaboration. I enjoy both at different times of the process.
I suppose part of making any piece of art is trying to do something that is beyond you – that you aren’t able to do at the beginning of the process. Hopefully, along the way, you learn how to do it, or at least a way to do it for that piece. I think that’s true for me both writing and performing.
5. What’s next?
I’m writing a poetry sitcom for Radio 4, co-writing a musical for the Nuffield theatre, and working on a screenplay with sci-fi legend Gavin Rothery. And having breakfast.
Wingman runs at the Soho Theatre until Sep 20 and you can read my review here.