Skip to content


Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Desperately Seeking the Exit
Desperately Seeking the Exit
Published on Friday, 16 August 2013

3 stars

Laughing Horse @ The Counting House (venue website)
1-11, 13-18, 20-25 Aug, 6:15pm-7:15pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Free and unticketed. No pre-booking required.
 Recommended for age 16+ only.

It took a certain amount of chutzpah to stride into this show, clutching my reviewer’s notebook in my hand. After all, it’s the real-life tale of how Peter Michael Marino’s musical version of Desperately Seeking Susan – with a soundtrack from Blondie! – closed after just four weeks on London’s West End. And if you believe the pre-show publicity, the critics who savaged Marino’s musical were very much to blame.

But that, it turns out, is a bit of a red herring; as Marino makes disarmingly clear, the musical he’d made his life’s work was doomed to fail before a single drop of ink fell from the critics’ pens.  The story of how he reached that point is as terrifying as it’s entertaining.  It’s a tale of artistic conflict and creative bravado, of the corrosive power of an excess of money, and of how shockingly quickly a guaranteed success can melt down into a quivering failure.

Marino cuts an energetic, restless, even frenetic figure on stage.  He’s clearly still passionate about his vision for the musical – and based on the quick run-through he offers at the start of the show, he’s every right to be.  As his narrative continues, a mournfully cynical tale begins to unfold, of how he lost control of his own creative work and how a warring director and choreographer turned his outburst of upbeat showmanship into a dourly unappealing farce.  It’s a fascinating insight into the true workings of the West End, and it’s to Marino’s credit that he tells such a powerful story while keeping the laugh count high.

Less successfully, there’s a lengthy chunk in the middle which dissects the experience of an American in London – with a particular focus on how perplexing British idiomatic expressions can be.  It’s funny and respectful, but it’s not exactly ground-breaking, and at times it was strangely at odds with the thrust of Marino’s narrative.  He complains that New Jersey references were excised from his show because they’d confuse a London audience – and then, apparently without irony, goes on to note how bamboozled he was when a colleague talked about finding a “hole in the wall”.

This show’s at its best when Marino skips the observational comedy, and simply tells his story.  He plays it for laughs, but there’s a real poignancy to it as well – and I’d have liked to have heard a little more of the darker side.  As it is, he skips quickly over the worst of it, before moving on to a triumphantly table-turning ending.  In the end then, I wasn’t seeking the exit to this enthralling storyteller’s monologue; on the contrary, I just wished he’d drawn me just a little further in.

<< Children of Mine   Bridget Christie - A Bic ... >>

About our star ratings

We've changed our rating system for this year.

Find out more >>

Follow our reviews!

RSS Subscribe to RSS
Twitter Follow us on Twitter

Editor's Blog

We're blogging this month about the ethics and practice of arts reviewing at the Fringe.  Come and join the discussion.

Visit the blog >>