Edinburgh Fringe 2022 
Interview

Phil Grainger   
The Gods The Gods The Gods
Assembly Roxy - Bijou
Aug 4-15, 17-22, 24-27, 20:30 /  Tickets
July 11, 2022

Four stories; 14 tracks. A show full of big beats, soaring melodies and heart-stopping spoken word. Wright & Grainger, the creators of international smash-hit shows Orpheus and Eurydice, call us to the crossroads where mythology meets real life. The Gods are gathering, and you're invited.

 

Hi Phil, thank you for taking the time to talk with The New Current, how does it feel to be heading to Edinburgh Fringe and Assembly Bijou this year?

Thanks for having us! Well we haven’t been to the Edinburgh Fringe since 2018, when we performed ORPHEUS at Summerhall. We were, like 100’s of others, all set to go again in 2020, before the world came to an unexpected halt. So now, not only has it been a few years since being there, but it’s been two years since we were first booked to do THE GODS at assembly. So we’re SUPER excited.

It’s a lot of work doing a show at Edinburgh Fringe, so you have to be match ready, but I think we are, and this is our first time with Assembly, so we’re stoked about that.

 

This is going to be a UK Premiere for The Gods The Gods The Gods, does that add any additional pressure on you?

 

I guess so! We’re so lucky to have such wonderful connections and audience in Australia, that we’ve performed The Gods a few dozens times of over there, and we were really pleased with it. Now we’ve had a while to wonder what might become of it, and a few more weeks to work on it, re-imagine some of the music with TOM FIGGINS, and do some previews with our friends at ‘Streatham Space Project’ in London and ‘At The Mill’ in North Yorkshire. So we feel in a really great place going into the festival.

We like to try to meet as many people from all over the world as we can while we’re at Edinburgh, so the show has to be at its best, and we’re dead proud of it right now.

 

Before the pandemic set in you gained amazing reviews for The Gods The Gods The Gods and picked up an Australian Best Theatre Award, what did it mean to you both to get this type of recognition for your show?

In 2018, we took ORPHEUS over to Adelaide Fringe, for a couple of weeks. And walked away with a Best Theatre Award. The following year, 2019 we went again with ORPHEUS, & new sister show EURYDICE, and walked away with Best Theatre Weekly, and then the overall Best Theatre Award for that year. So we’d be fibbing if we said we weren’t really hoping for the same a year on in 2020 with The Gods The Gods The Gods. Thankfully, people liked it, and it happened. So we got the hat-trick. Which is just amazing. When we make a new show, we hope it connects with people, and that they like it, but you never know…

So receiving a few awards and people saying nice things about it helps you trust you’ve gone in the right direction with a new piece.

 

Do you have your sales patter down for the Royal Mile promotion?

Absolutely not. I’m personally the worst at ‘elevator pitches’. I am SO quick to ramble.


The good thing about this one, is that I could maybe do some busking, and play some songs from the show, so people could get a taster! The show is 11 songs played straight through, so we were also thinking we could let people listen to one of the sections of the show, either on the MILE, or wherever, on their headphones. Maybe we can offer them a free 5 mins, see if they wanna watch the rest of the 60 mins LIVE at Assembly.

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"Very little chat in between - the songs are a set amount of time, so the show is that length."

Can you tell me how The Gods The Gods The Gods came about, what was the inspiration behind this show?

 

The Gods x3 came about as… ‘The next instalment of the Wright&Grainger ‘MYTHS’ series’. In ORPHEUS there’s a caf mentioned, where Orpheus visits Zeus when he’s mourning Eurydice. Then in EURYDICE, we find out that her mother Ceres works at the caf. The Gods The Gods The Gods isn’t based on a single Greek Myth, its 4 stories, 3 of which are about people like us in our world, and 1 is about the Greek Gods gathering in the same caf to discus whether they are… still relevant.

Where ORPHEUS started as a very simple, one storyteller with a book, and one musician with a guitar… we’ve since gone totally electronic. So now we use Electric Guitars, Keyboards, Sample Pads, Drum Machines, and lots of mic’s. Its loud, and big, and dark! Quite the other end of the spectrum to ORPHEUS.

Do you allow your performers much flexibility once a show is running or do you like to keep to what you’ve planned?

 

We started the myths with the idea that it would be a live collaboration between the performers, storytellers and musicians, and that things would ebb and flow… which remained that way until we’d done 100 shows or so, when we were so locked in, then that became the clear version.

The Gods is more like this. More set. All the story and narrative is within 11 songs. Very little chat in between - the songs are a set amount of time, so the show is that length. Maybe if we get really into it, we might go off page here and there… But most of it is as it will be on the soon to be released ‘Gods Album’.

How did Wright&Grainger come about and what has been the secret to your creative partnership over the years?


Alex and I met at school in 2005, so coming up 20 years ago. We did some school plays together, and went up to Edinburgh Fringe together in 2007, with a play Alex wrote, and I was in, and did some music for. Looking back, it wasn’t very good. Haha!

We’ve worked alongside each other ever since, but in 2014/2015 we started doing a lot together, and since ORPHEUS began it’s been non-stop. We came up with Wright&Grainger, just as an easier way of saying it was a show of mine and Al’s rather than saying both our company names.

However, I think I suggested the name, just on the basis that it’s our last names, and was often said in reviews, ‘WRIGHT & GRAINGER’. But Al points out now that ‘Wright’ is a maker, or crafter of things, and ‘Grainger’ is a collector, so us being a pair that collect stories and people, and make music and words and shows, I think that’s quite neat!

 

Have you always had a passion for music and theatre?

 

I think so. Alex and I both love music. It’s always been a big part of our shows whether we’re working together or not, and as I said, it started for us, at school, playing songs together, round the school piano. As a partnership, Al is the words, and I am the music. But that has started to overlap. I occasionally write some lyrics, and Alex will come up with a killer melody now and then. But it’s nice to have someone be largely responsible for each element, as the other can focus more on the other. I think it makes for really good work, and as we trust each other so much after all these years, it’s easy to let their ideas take the lead.

 

When you created the immersive The Great Gatsby show did you imagine it would take on such a life of its own?
 

Not in a million years! If you were talking to Al, the answer might be different. But I thought it was a crazy idea! It took well into the first run for me to believe it was a good idea. I was, of course, proved very wrong. It was a very good idea, and has gone from a closed down pub in York to being the longest running Immersive Show in the UK.

It’s wonderful thing to look at how many people have been involved over the 7 years now. Just before the pandemic, it was on in South Korea, and the day I received a video of a South Korean performer, playing and singing a song Al and I had written… was a bit of a LIFE MOMENT.


The show is better than ever! It’s a joy to see it.

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What has been the most valuable lesson you have taken from this experience?

I guess that with lots of our work, we just say YES to things. Want to turn an old pub into an arts space? YES. Want to do a multi narrative version of The Great Gatsby across all 3 floors? YES. Want to bring it to London? YES. Want to make a show of Al talking and Phil singing and do it for a week? YES. Now… Want to bring it to Bali? YES. Want to perform it 500 times… erm. Haha!

I think that might have been the key to lots of it.

 

Are you working on your next production in your “The Myths” series?

 

In 2020, when The Gods tour was cancelled, we made a new one for the series, with our friend and collaborator Ollie Tilney. (He was also our original Jay Gatsby). We made HALF MAN || HALF BULL. A theatrical listening experience, to enjoy anywhere. It’s two stories, of Theseus (and the minotaur) and Icarus (who flew too close to the sun), told through music and spoken word, over 20 tracks. That’s available now, and should be enjoyed somewhere comfortable, with a good drink.

We really want to try doing that live also. It’s an even bigger show than The Gods. But we’re getting there! Then after that… Dunno? Make a show with a circus / acrobats? I think that’s what we’re interested in next.

 

And finally, what do you want your fringe audiences to take away from The Gods The Gods The Gods?

We want audiences to leave feeling more connected than when they entered.

To us, to each other, to themselves. Like how a church offers connection, we want to try to do the same, but with belief in people, and music and stories, rather than in a god. You can believe in whatever gods you like also. There’s plenty to choose from.

We want people to come to The Gods, as strangers, Dance together. Sing. Listen. Clap. Then leave feeling part of something. Ideally humming the final song from the show.