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Desperately Seeking the Exit

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
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Peter Michael Marino shows that self-deprecation is the height of humour in this one-man-band show about how his West End musical staging of the cult-but-corny 80s film Desperately Seeking Susan using hits by Blondie flopped so dramatically that it had to be pulled just weeks after opening.

In this 70-odd minute performance the US playwright, actor, director and force of nature tells the sometimes painful, always hilarious story of how his baby was made and unmade into a 'hideously deformed' one. The fact that such high profile celebrities including Madonna and Debbie Harry were involved only serves to highlight the magnitude of the mess up.

Although Marino clearly takes pains to avoid the show being only for those who have seen the film it's clearly an advantage if you're familiar with the story. Nevertheless the showing of promotional video footage for his musical around the time it was first staged helps put everything into context.

It takes tremendous balls and honesty for anyone who has created something on such a massive scale to turn around and say it was shit, let alone turn it into an act all about how shit it was. But the affair has a dark side too, since Marino admits that he fell into such severe depression that he 'couldn't even look those close to me in the eye' following the experience.

Through subtle comedic turns Marino also shines a scathing light into the facile 'make 'em laugh' industry of the West End and Broadway, reminding us that for all its charm it's essentially a money-making business with an ugly side akin to corporate companies.

There are moments when you suspect a little do-it-yourself therapy is going on since Marino, with bottle of Magners in hand, takes the notion of confronting your own demons to a whole new level. But no doubt that¹s all part of his cheeky irony.

-Will Stone


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