Ferment Fortnight is upon us and our first dosage of eye-popping, mind-stretching performance from our in-house lab, Bristol Old Vic Ferment comes from writer Richard Marsh. Winner of a Fringe First with Dirty Great Love Story, the 2012 London Slam Champion and recent finalist for BBC Audio Drama Awards 2014 Richard presents his new comedy Ministry Of Secrets about computer surveillance. We caught up with him to ask how he has created the work and what to expect from this first episode in Ferment Fortnight 2014.
What is the show about?
Government surveillance of civilians.
Describe the show in three words.
We’re watching you.
How, when and why did the company make the decision to tackle this story?
I made the decision after a meeting with Sharon Clarke in November. I’d been fascinated and appalled by this subject for a while, but it was Sharon mentioning the possibility of coming to Ferment that pushed me into actually writing about it.
How did you approach the events in the rehearsal room?
We haven’t started yet, as it’s a rehearsed reading rather than a full production. Sharon has cast the play – with Julie Christian Young, Oliver Llewellyn Jenkins and Alec Dunbar, directed by Heidi Vaughan – and we’ll meet on Tuesday to rehearse the piece prior to the show on Wednesday.
What does the story of Ministry Of Secrets mean to you?
My initial drive to write this was a reaction to what the British and US governments are doing. Now I’m trying to tell the characters’ stories as best I can rather than just shouting about an issue.
What part of the show has been the biggest challenge to direct/devise?
Writing drama as opposed to banging on about something and demonstrating that I’ve done my research.
What has been your favourite part of this process?
I began my career as a playwright but got into performing via poetry and have acted in all my recent work (including Dirty Great Love Story, co-written with Katie Bonna, which came to Bristol Old Vic last year). I’m not acting in Ministry of Secrets. I’m really looking forward to working with the cast and director as a writer, and then sitting in the audience to watch the show.
What’s next for you and the company?
My next play’s called Wingman and I’m performing a scratch of it with Jerome Wright at the Old Vic tunnels in London on Feb 22nd.
Before that, I’m hoping to get to some of Vanessa Kisuule’s poetry night after my show. Vanessa’s a fantastic poet who has a show later in Ferment (Love And Other Highly Regarded Fictions, Friday 31st, 8.15pm). Also head to see Chris Redmond and Anna Freeman (the same night at 9.30pm) if you can. They’re both fantastic poets, and they’ve got a live band (thankfully, not a dead one) for their show Hunting Pigs.
Catch Richard Marsh’s show Ministry Of Secrets at Bristol Old Vic as part of Ferment Fortnight on Wed 22 Jan, 6.30pm.
Photography by David Monteith-Hodge