Interview with Matthew Greenhough, Creative Director of Wound Up Theatre

"People are being priced out, which is disgusting, and it’s increasingly exclusively a platform for posho’s launching their careers. But at its heart it still aspires to give little greebo no-hopers like me a chance. That’s special."

Interview with Matthew Greenhough, Creative Director of Wound Up Theatre

Could you first introduce yourself to the reader?

Hello reader. I’m Matthew Greenhough. I’m a writer for Theatre, Radio, and Telly. I’m the Creative Director of Wound Up Theatre - and I wrote “The Death of Molly Miller”.

How would you describe your show?

A pitch-black comedy about Molly Miller, a social media influencer accidentally taken hostage by Tommy, a soft lad desperate thief, who’s as surprised by the turn of events as Molly is. It explores social inequality, social media fame, gambling addiction and Wagamama's, and is a kind of spiritual sequel to Wound Up’s biggest show to date - Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy.

What is your favourite part of your show?

We’re quite fond of a company of Ianucci-esque profanity, and there are some crackers in this show. We like layering in puerile humour and daft gags amongst our exploration of important socio-political hot topics. It might be the thing we’re best at, and we do it well in this show for sure. 

If your show had a theme song, what would it be and why?

The Kes Soundtrack, because I’m Northern. There’s no other answer and no other justification.

What is one thing you hope audiences will take away from your show?

We want them to be entertained - that’s the point, right? We’re aiming to make a show funny, thrilling and unexpected, and that talks about big subjects in an original and interesting way… If the audience comes away feeling like we’ve coming achieved our aims, even a little, we’re all gravy baby.

If you could add a surprise celebrity cameo to your show, who would it be and why?

Beyoncé… Not because I’m a massive fan, but can you imagine the size of the queue for returns? 

Why do you want to perform at Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

Because it’s the biggest most exciting place for theatre on Earth, and we started our career as a company here a decade ago on the Free Fringe, and we keep coming back because we’re masochists.

What differentiates it from other festivals?

In 2013, I, a working-class Northern punk with no idea what he was doing, came to the Fringe with a play I’d written and performed it in a beer cellar on Cowgate as part of the Free Fringe. A decade later, I’m a writer who’s had a bunch of well-received, sell-out shows at the same festivals' big venues over the course of a decade, and it’s now my job to write telly. (You ain’t seen none of it yet, telly’s weird…) That all came from performing at this festival, and I don’t think it could happen anywhere else. Yes, a decade later, it’s different. People are being priced out, which is disgusting, and it’s increasingly exclusively a platform for posho’s launching their careers. But at its heart it still aspires to give little greebo no-hopers like me a chance. That’s special.

What is one thing you would change about the Edinburgh Festival Fringe?

I would make it accessible in the way it used to be! I’m not sure how, but there’s got to be a way. Millions pour into the city every year from artists and audiences alike… it’s going somewhere… Work that out and maybe we’ll realise who’s screwing us.

How has your background, upbringing and education had an impact on your artistic career?

Well, I’m an outlier because I’m a working-class artist who has gone more than a couple of years before being forced out of the industry by economics. (Luckily, or maybe unluckily, I really am incapable of doing anything else!) But my background has certainly informed my work. Working-class people are generally sickeningly 2D in TV and theatre. And I want to change that and put rounded 3D characters into stories and genres normally only reserved for the middle classes. Because the way I see working people shown in the arts, bears no resemblance to my life. If any other marginalised groups were shown so stereotypically, there’d rightly be outrage… As for my education (wasted, despite the best intentions of my teachers, then a shitty BA in Drama at a former Polly because I didn’t know that Drama Schools were a thing) that made me determined to succeed in this game. Mainly because I was seeing talentless twonks from good schools succeeding despite their unfathomable mediocrity.

What is your favourite thing about performing for a live audience?

The connection you get with a room full of strangers reacting to your work is like no other feeling in the world. I write daft dark political stories, that have weird jokes in them. The first few seconds or minutes when they’re trying to work you out, are unbridled terror, then you catch them off guard with a daft joke, and BANG, they’re yours, and you’re all in it together, and you just go through the story together. I haven’t done it in four years since before the pandemic, so I’m really excited to try and create that environment again.

What is the strangest thing that has ever happened to you while performing?

During the tour of my play Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy, we were playing a small-ish black box space - 80/90 people in the audience. It was thrust staging, so we were surrounded on three sides. It was a two-hander, much like The Death of Molly Miller, and while I was delivering a monologue in a very tense scene, I could hear noises behind me, which were almost inhuman, I couldn’t work out what was going on. Elliot Liburd who I was acting against, a consummate professional, for the most part, kept it together, but his eyes kept flicking to behind me, and I couldn’t work out why. Then, suddenly, the woman sat directly behind me stood up, and ran across the stage towards the exit, all the while… violently being sick into her hands, which dropped in quite large volumes onto the stage… We were stunned, but ever professional, kept going, hoping the stage manager would shout to pause, ya know, clean up the sick. But because we kept going, she did too. We had to spend the rest of the play pretending that nothing had happened, despite the pools of vomit on the floor… Top that!

What's the most challenging or unconventional venue you've ever performed in, and how did it impact the overall experience?

Probably the beer cellar on Cowgate that Wound Ups first play “Delusions of Adequacy” was performed in 2013 as part of the Free Fringe. It was like being in a cave, with an extension cord and a big light, with temporary walls made out of plywood. It was weird, but it was wonderful. I wanted stage lighting, so I dragged up massive stage lights that I temporarily liberated from a University in Newcastle that I didn’t even attend. (Brought ‘em up on a Megabus - true story.) We had no idea what we were doing - we didn’t even know you were meant to register your show - but we had crowds taking a punt on us every night, it was fun, accessible, and made me think that I could be someone who made things, I’ll never forget it, and I’m still immeasurably proud that we did it. 

Is there a piece of feedback you've received from an audience member or critic after a performance that’s stuck with you?

"A number of complex socio-political debates are touched upon with sensitivity and nuance, even between the dick jokes"- I liked that because it was exactly the kind of theatre I want to make. Some also once said I was like “a sweary Alan Bennet with funkier hair” - and that’s obviously coolest thing anyone has ever said about anybody ever.

What is your favourite thing to do in Edinburgh when you're not performing? How do you relax and look after your mental health?

This may be sacrilege, but I like going to the cinema by myself in the mornings. I love stories, and they’re my escape, and while Edinburgh is wonderful for its communal storytelling when I need to get away from the festival, and I still want to escape into a story, the cinema alone is the best way to do that while enjoying some much craved for isolation. That and history podcasts.

Is there a show you’re excited to see when you’re up there?

I’m excited to see the show that I’m not planning on seeing yet, but I’ll take a punt on while I’m there and I’ll discover something or someone new and wonderful. That’s the best bit of the Fringe!

What is one piece of advice you’d give to someone thinking about taking a show up to Edinburgh? If you’ve never been before, what would you say has been (potentially) the most useful?

Make the show you want to see, because if you want to see it, probably someone else does too. Might be terrible advice, but it’s the way I do it!


The Death of Molly Miller will be performed at 6.30pm in Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly) from 3rd – 26th August

Booking link: https://underbellyedinburgh.co.uk/events/event/the-death-of-molly-miller 

Header Image Credit: Aimee Morley

Author

Tom Inniss

Tom Inniss Voice Team

Tom is the Editor of Voice. He is a politics graduate and holds a masters in journalism, with particular interest in youth political engagement and technology. He is also a mentor to our Voice Contributors, and champions our festivals programme, including the reporter team at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.

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