Saturday, 18 May 2013

Art is the Best Revenge

Desperately Seeking the Exit, Peter Michael Marino’s one man show

What do you do when you’re in a foreign city, you’ve written the book for a musical but everyone has their own “ideas” about it and aren’t talking to you, you’re smoking so many cigarettes that British American Tobacco shares have gone up 5%, everyone keeps asking you if you’re “all right” when you obviously aren’t, you’re bleeding from the rectum, you throw yourself in front of a bus in desperation but it’s going so slow it doesn’t harm you and Debbie Harry is delighted she “wrote” your musical? You go mad or write a one man show. Peter Michael Marino did both, though not at the same time.

In 2007, Marino wrote the book for the stage musical version of the film Desperately Seeking Susan, with the music of Blondie and Debbie Harry. The show lasted four weeks before closing, not so much flopping as crashing and burning. But was Marino disheartened? You bet. Out of the ashes of that disaster, and after a lot of therapy, Marino had created his one man show Desperately Seeking the Exit.

Fortunately, this isn’t the “pity-me” style of theatre. Marino tells his story with humour and energy, but this is still the dark side of show business. This show is about the failure of a West End musical, the crash and burn of this musical and the effect it had on Marino. But in the same way this isn’t a self-pity show, it isn’t a downbeat and depressing one. Marino has a sharp and lively sense of humour and fills his show with it, making us laugh at his nightmare experience.

I never knew that producing a musical was such a long twisting journey. Marino’s humour navigates this journey for us, with the constant changing “vision” for his musical, as director, chirographer and then producers all add their “ideas” for how the show should be and Marino’s nightmare deepens. His is a truly nightmarish journey downwards, at one point I even wondered how he survived (when he described a two hour meeting to find an alternative to the word “pot” you knew all hope was lost), this world was as unreal as Lewis Carol’s Alice stories. Marino also proves that, even in the theatre, the writer is at the bottom of pile but the first to be blamed when things go wrong, even when it’s all taken out of their hands (So, not much different then for writers elsewhere).

A lot of Marino’s humour does come from the differences between American and British culture, though his are much more intelligent insights then how we pronounce tomato and the temperature of our beer. At first, I was disappointed to hear so many jokes about our differences but as show when on they served to show his alienation, he was in a foreign country as everything went wrong.

From such dark material Marino has crafted a lively and funny show, with a heart that is all too human. This is a must-see show for Marino’s insights into the madness of producing a West End musical and his always sharp humour. Unfortunately we saw Desperately Seeking the Exit at the end of its run at the Leicester Square Theatre but Peter Michael Marino will be performing it elsewhere so check him out online. Unlike the musical, this is no flop.

The website Desperately Seeking the Exit.

Desperately Seeking the Exit on Facebook.

Desperately Seeking the Exit on Twitter.

Desperately Seeking the Exit on SoundCloud

Desperately Seeking the Exit on Tumblr

How to write a West End flop, BBC online article about the show

Original Guardian review of Desperately Seeking Susan (The Musical), and it’s not good.


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