Richard Marsh tells us about Phoenix, his new musical. Here Saturday 29 June, 12pm.
My parents were born in Oxford. I was born in Oxford, then we moved away when I was tiny to a smallholding in Somerset. Sort of like The Good Life, but without the posh neighbours. Coming as a child to visit my grandparents, I was thrilled by the size of the city. Oxford is where I saw my first play (a panto, at the Apollo), wrote my first play (a panto, not at the Apollo) and went to one of the best gigs of my life.
I came back to study, and I didn’t study enough but I made some friends, including Emma. Emma’s a trained dancer and uses her body to create beautifully complex, resonant human beings. I use my body for typing. But we became friends sharing a flat at the Edinburgh festival, in a queue for the bathroom longer than the queue for our show.
Emma is the first person I knew making her living in the arts. It looked really hard. She was also the first person I knew who became a mum. That looked even harder.
She took me to see Supergrass, Beck and Radiohead play in Shotover Park. Chatting to people between sets, a guy asked me who I was excited to see and I said Supergrass and Beck.
Emma later told me I’d been talking to the bassist from Radiohead. Who is a very polite human being.
Cut to 2019 and I’m a parent (hard) making his living in the arts (also hard) and I’ve written Phoenix, a show about a wannabe rock star who accidentally becomes a dad. Being a musician is a really hard career to combine with looking after a small child. It’s noisy, it’s unsettled, the hours are terrible. Which is also true of music.
Ash Phoenix’s dilemma is a very specific one, 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 – our star Andy Gallo plays guitar, keyboard and drums (often at the same time) as well as every part in the show. You’ve got to see him – he’s like a cuddly octopus. Who can sing.
This play is going to spend its early life in Oxford, on June 29th at the Old Fire Station at midday before heading to Edinburgh. If I was you, I’d come. My mum’s coming. Emma’s coming. Radiohead aren’t coming. Actually, I don’t know that for sure. They might be. But in all honesty I’d be surprised, they’re probably busy. When they came on stage, they turned out to be great.