Edinburgh Fringe Fest - The Death of Molly Miller
In Wound Up Theatre’s The Death of Molly Miller, a working-class anti-hero Tommy attempts to burgle the home of Molly, a local social media influencer, but things quickly spiral into an unplanned hostage situation. The latest offering from the writer/director team behind Bismillah! An ISIS Tragicomedy and It’ll be Alt-Right On the Night, this new show is an intense, pitch-black comedy-drama exploring inequality, social media fame, gambling addiction and Wagamamas.
Long-term collaborators, writer Matthew Greenhough and director Jonny Kelly continue to make a name for themselves as voices for the disenfranchised, socially alienated and economically disadvantaged young people in the UK. We grabbed Matthew for an interview all about The Death of Molly Miller.
Your show is centred around a social media influencer who becomes the target of a robbery. Is it based on anyone we might know?
I think it’s obvious for all to see, with merely a cursory glance at our show, that it’s a work of fiction akin to the novels of Tolkien, and that the characters in it bare no relation to the real world, or any figures living or dead - the BBC made sure of that… And so if you want to try and prove otherwise - you better lawyer up, baby!
Though, to be honest… Influencers being targeted by thieves did become a bit of a thing, so of course I looked at real-life examples in writing the show. But still, Molly did end up becoming her own person, very separate from any real-life counterpoints. One major reason - we had to make her sympathetic. Some of the real-life figures who inspired our Molly sometimes fail to inspire sympathy, even when they’re trying to. Conversely, in my research, I found influencers to be a deeply alienated bunch, which for me, did make them quite sympathetic…
That said, the general murmur of reaction to the show we’ve had so far has been quite telling as to the relationship people generally seem to have with online celebrities. Especially in comparison to some of our other shows. Even from people I know who imbibe influencer content - seems that when it comes to a play they haven’t seen, people are more willing to forgive radicalised Jihadi terrorists, or Right Wing protesters than they are an influencer… People seem to revel in the idea that the play might be taking Molly down… I’m not entirely sure what that says about our culture, but it certainly says something.
Is social media and the job of ‘influencer’ a topic we need to be talking about more/learning about more?
Well, I obviously think so! There’s a lot of talk about influencers in the culture, and yes, they get far too much media attention, but it’s usually on the terms of the influencers, and their management companies. We’re trying to look under the hood of that. And actually, the play really talks about inequality, and aspiration - an influencer being robbed and held captive is just an interesting way of exploring those topics.
Both the characters are working class and Northern (a bit of a Wound Up Trope) and right now working-class communities are suffering more economically and socially than at any other point, certainly in my lifetime. Curiously, they’re also simultaneously often spending their leisure time watching people on social media flaunting their affluence as entertainment… It’s a funny old paradox, that we live in a time of runaway inequality when you’re statistically more unlikely than ever to transcend a low-income background. And in response, through social media, we’re mainlining the idea that living in anything other than unbridled decadence means you’re an abject failure. We’ve tried to explore that side of things, through a thrilling story that has a few world-class nob gags thrown in for good measure. (Another Wound Up Trope…)
The Death of Molly Miller is also a BBC Radio 4 show, how does the radio version differ from the stage version?
We’re bigger, longer and uncut! The BBC commission was amazing to get - it’s my first broadcast credit since I started making tentative steps into writing for TV and Radio. (Our last Fringe show, ‘It’ll be Alt-Right on the Night’, was optioned, and is also currently doing the rounds with broadcasters, having been developed into the TV show - ‘Kill the Poor’.) But the radio ‘Death of Molly Miller’ is an afternoon Radio 4 play. So, while it has all the markers of a Wound Up show, and I’m unfathomably proud of doing it, it’s a PG version of what Wound Up usually does.
Also, the BBC version is a wee bit shorter at 45 minutes. Adapting it for the stage meant I could open it up a little, be a little bit more profane (AS IS MY WANT!) and it also meant I could explore ideas a little bit more detail and make the whole thing a bit more active and theatrical.
To be honest, I just couldn’t be more chuffed to have been part of making both versions,
Wound Up Theatre is well known for giving voices to the economically disadvantaged, how important is that to you as a company, and why?
Well, I don’t think we’re the only ones, but we’re certainly the only ones with our approach, and that’s dead important to us as a company - it’s basically the reason we exist.
Theatre loves talking about poor people, but they’re almost always looked at through a poverty-porn middle-class lens. Most theatre is made by and for people whose stomachs don’t collapse in on themselves whenever they have to pay more than a fiver for a pint. People who are happy to cast and watch rich drama school toffs play joyless stereotypes of poor people. People who after the show finishes, leave the theatre and ignore real unfortunates on the way to their post-show pate platter, while still feeling like they’ve contributed.
Wound Up aren’t about that - we’re trying to be an antidote to it. We’re about making funny little shows, that give voices to real people, talk about big issues and tell stories that centre working-class characters, but that are original and fun and that don’t just endlessly reinforce negative stereotypes.
What emotions do you hope to bring out of your audience?
Joy! Despair! Ecstasy! We’re just trying to make the best show we can, which hopefully leaves our audience riotously entertained - that’s what we’re aiming for. Yes, it’s a show about vital topics, and it has its sombre moments - but it’s not meant to be preachy, it’s meant to be fun. If they feel other things along the way, that’s nice too, but we just hope the audience leaves having had a great time!
The Death of Molly Miller will be performed at 6.30pm in Underbelly Cowgate (Big Belly) from 3rd – 26th August