I'm an atheist, but my Edinburgh play is all about God
Richard Marsh explains why he's written a play all about God despite being a non-believer
I'm an atheist, and I wrote a play about God. It's all my granddad's fault.
I'm the grandson of a preacher man, so religion has always been part of my life. As kids, we had to wait till after Christmas lunch, when granddad was back from work, before opening our presents. Christ really got in the way of Christmas presents. Lots of family life was fitted round religion - which I began to question as I slowly realised I didn't believe in God.
So I've been trying to write about religion for a long time. I write comedy, and I look for colourful, hooky ideas. In this case: rebooting religion, God picks an atheist as her Chosen One.
I didn't write this play intending to offend people who hold religious beliefs. (In fact, the play is in part a reaction to my Dawkinsish atheist teenage self.) I wrote it to entertain and move people while investigating something that has shaped my life since childhood. Part of the fun of writing is discovering what these characters feel about the subject matter of the story. And the human stories around this atheist who starts hearing God's voice were not what I thought they'd be. The central journey came as a surprise. And God became a much bigger character than I'd planned.
We see God through human stories - Todd, chosen by a God he doesn't believe in; his wife Helen, a sarcastic surgeon who shares Todd's scepticism (but can't hear the voice he hears); her father Pete, who's a vicar - religion is his livelihood.
God is not the God you might imagine. As played by the amazing Sara Hirsch (former UK slam champion), God takes an irreligious approach to religion. She prefers questions to answers. She's got a sense of humour, and a very sharp tongue. She's fun to hang out with.
And God struggles. Selecting Todd as Chosen One doesn't help. He is a very messy messiah. He does good very badly. But Todd tries. At a time when many people have lost faith in politics, what happens when someone completely unexpectedly finds faith in faith? If you felt you could do anything… if you had the backing of God… how would you change the world?
Todd & God deals with serious subjects, but it's important to me the audience be entertained. I think that mix of comedy and drama is true to life. And although the story might seem fantastical, I've tried to root it in the fine grain of everyday existence. I hope it feels true. A comedy tackling a huge subject in a heartfelt way.
Todd & God is at Pleasance 10Dome for the whole fringe at 14:50. Round about the time you might start opening presents after Christmas lunch.