Peter Michael Marino discusses Desperately Seeking the Exit

This article is from 2012

Desperately Seeking the Exit

The writer/performer who’s hoping to turn a stage disaster into a Fringe success

It’s a classic case of triumphing in the face of disaster. In 2007, Peter Michael Marino’s adaptation of the Madonna movie Desperately Seeking Susan, opened in London’s West End and, after devastating reviews, crawled through 13 days before closing, saying goodbye to a £4m investment.

Now, suitably chastened, Marino is playing the Fringe with a one-man show about what went wrong. Called Desperately Seeking the Exit, a phrase taken from one of his least favourable reviews, is a warts-and-all insight into what makes a flop. ‘More people have seen my show about the show than actually saw the show,’ laughs Marino, whose budget this time is a more modest $10,000.

Directed by the Fringe First-winning John Clancy, the show is neither therapy nor revenge, but a comic vision of how so many people can work together to get something so spectacularly wrong. ‘I talk about going to therapy because of the horrible experience, but I never wanted it to smack of one-man-showdom,’ he says. ‘A lot of one-man shows are people reliving some kind of experience, whether it be cancer or a divorce, but to me, this is a really great story. I’ve told so many little stories over the years about my experience that it seemed ridiculous not to put it all into a one-hour show.’

The possible reasons for the failure of the musical are many, ranging from cultural differences to artistic misjudgements and his own inexperience. Five years on, Marino is able to laugh the whole experience off, allowing us to enjoy the schadenfreude. He, meanwhile, has become a more sympathetic person. ‘I don’t mind ribbing Spider-Man on Broadway, but I have found myself keeping more quiet about certain projects that are being developed in the West End. I’m not going to share it, because there’s real people involved.’

But does he still hold a torch for his musical? ‘Of course! I wrote it.’

Laughing Horse @ Edinburgh City Football Club, 556 9628, 2–26 (not 13), 6pm, free.

Desperately Seeking the Exit / Free Festival

  • 4 stars

Peter Michael Marino. American writer/performer Marino triumphantly returns with the crazy true tale of the making and unmaking of notorious West End Blondie musical disaster, Desperately Seeking Susan. This high-octane comedy offers a tell-all, behind-the-scenes peek at how this £4 million musical flopped: hatching the…