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Edinburgh Fringe 2011


Richard Marsh

Genre: Storytelling


Pleasance Courtyard


Low Down

Debut Edinburgh show from Richard Marsh, one of the next bright young things of British poetry, Skittles is a story of love and loss and the human condition, told primarily in rhyme. Broken dreams, cross-continent road trips and empty sweet packets, this poetry play has it all.


Richard Marsh is a critically acclaimed poet and playwright, who is performing at Edinburgh for the first time. Skittles is a play about love and loss, about high hopes and dashed dreams. A good audience warmed very quickly to him. He is an engaging and delightful performer who will get better and better, as his storylines get stronger and stronger.

Presented primarily in rhyme, Marsh is an emerging writing talent, who combines sharp observation and shrewd insight within an affecting tale of unrequited love for a woman called only Sorrow. As the tale is told, we are asked if sweets are more reliable than love. Like people, Skittles the sweets too come in all shapes and sizes, but they are uniformly consistent, and for Marsh, a better more reliable companion.

Marsh’s language is as rich, as evocative, as intelligent as the work which has established him over the last two years. He is very much at the start of his performing career. But he would appear to have the presence on stage to pull it off. He is witty, engaging and provides an hour of worthwhile thoughtful entertainment.

The piece itself is very well crafted. The rhythms and the rhymes come thick and fast as this poet creates a magical mystery tour across America in a car decorated with Skittles. By the time the journey has ended, the dreams, the optimisms, the aspirations are dashed. The sweets are chipped and melting, and it is all a bit of a mess.

It is a polished performance from an engaging wordsmith. It is well worth an hour of anyone’s time. What you will get is a piece which is as engaging as it is charming. Its well written, the language is lovely, the style non-assertive and non-offensive. It is a very pleasant jaunt in the Pleasance.

At times, as the piece unfolded, the need to rhyme seems to lead the piece to places which can feel a bit contrived and awkward. The story itself then gets rather weak. One has the impression that Marsh will offer more substantial work in the future.

He provides a chance to see how different genres of poetry and storytelling can be interwoven. And he does so without the cynicism and world weariness which seems to infect too many pieces at Edinburgh. As Marsh grows in confidence, so the storylines will get stronger, the characterisation more rounded and the insistence on rhyming might give way to a focus on rhythm. That will provide him with a much more interesting and varied palette with which to paint his stories.

But for now, this newcomer is well worth supporting.