Patrick McPherson will be bringing his highly anticipated new show, Colossal, to the Edinburgh Fringe this August, following huge success with two previous shows.
Patrick trained at the London Film School, but it was while studying an MA in screenwriting at University College London that he got his first taste of putting a show together, “my mate wanted us to write something together,” explains Patrick, “because another one of our friends was trying to start a theatre company.”
“And so we wrote a couple of sketches, and put on a couple of shows. It just felt like something we were doing mostly as a joke, and it was a great place to start because in London you can book a pub theatre quite cheaply and then get all your friends to come.”
Patrick’s love of writing soon saw him head up to Edinburgh Fringe in 2018 with friend Zac Peel, and the duo’s comedy show, Camels. But it was his 2019 show The Man that attracted huge attention, “It was all a bit of surprise,” laughs Patrick, “nobody knew who we were or knew anything about us. Anyone who came to the show were just people we had dragged off the street. So, it was really cool very early on to see we were getting great feedback on social media, and word of mouth spread really quickly.”
“It was a bit of a risk in that we were trying to approach some like pretty big topics like mental health, masculinity, sexuality and suicide. If you get it wrong with those topics, you get it really wrong.”
The Man picked up numerous five-star reviews, “we went to Edinburgh thinking if we could just get one decent three star review we’d be happy, so we were surprised and delighted with how things actually turned out.”
Patrick says he doesn’t feel too much pressure returning to the Fringe hot on the heels of his previous success, “they’re very different shows, and this is the first show I’ve done which isn’t autobiographical, I don’t want to make it sound like pretentious theatre, but The Man was like a real piece of me.
“Whereas Colossal is less that, it’s more like a conversation I’ve had with friends and tried to put it into a story. We’re taking a risk with this again, because there’s lots of elements that I’ve never done in a show before, lots more music, lots more theatrical stuff, it’s definitely more a piece of theatre.”
Patrick says that he and his team are interested in making cool and dynamic theatre, “I would describe it as a comedy play about love stories, and more importantly, how we tell love stories, and what makes a good love story. It’s a combination of gig theatre, music, spoken word, sketch and monologue, we really just thought why not put all the styles in!”
The story in Colossal is told by a character called Dan, and Patrick says he took inspiration from his previous work when creating the character, “in The Man there was a character called Guy who was just like the embodiment of awful masculinity, and I wanted to continue that thread, and write a new character, but who was a little less of a caricature, a bit more like someone you’d actually meet.”
Patrick is keen not to give too much of the story away, but does let us know that while he likes his shows to be funny, he also enjoys writing darker and more slippery characters, “the most difficult thing about writing Dan has been keeping him balanced on a moral tightrope, I want the audience to feel certain things about Dan at certain points, so that’s very tricky to get right.”
“Also in my previous sketch shows, the characters are really exaggerated, Dan is still exaggerated, but more of a person you might meet in a pub. So that’s difficult, because I’m having to write character jokes, rather than joke-jokes, so they actually have to be well written lines, which is a horrible challenge.”
Patrick wanted to make sure that Colossal felt more theatrical than previous works, “we were really keen to get a proper theatre director for this show, and someone who could put their stamp on it,” says Patrick, “I’m really bad at taking full responsibility for a show, I don’t enjoy it. I want someone to really challenge me and be very collaborative.”
The person who could do that was Susie MacDonald who directs Colossal, “she’s been amazing, I’ve never had a proper theatre director before in terms of really thinking about light and sound and space and blocking and all that, I think she’s incredibly talented, she’s brought her own voice to the show.”
“And especially because this is a show about relationships, it’s really important we have both sides of the story, a female voice to come to the show, and put her own spin on it, so I can’t wait for the audience to see what she has done to it, I think she’s doing some really cool things I haven’t seen on stage before.”
Also part of the creative team is Sam MacDonald, “I wrote some music on my laptop, but I’m not a very good musician, so I brought Sam on board who is an incredible composer and turned my music in to these amazing songs that feature in the show.”
Patrick says he is keen to explore and champion LGBT voices and narratives in his work, “The Man was very much about sexuality, and there are lots of shows at the Fringe like that, and I love going to see them, but what Colossal wants to say about relationships and those love stories, should be applicable to anyone’s narrative, we’ve had great feedback that it’s nice to see a queer character or bisexual character, without it being the main arc of the story.”
Patrick is looking forward to returning to Underbelly this Fringe, “I think that they look after artists really well , the type of artists they select are amazing, some of the best work I’ve seen at the Fringe has been at Underbelly. I think that their venues are amazing, and Cowgate is a very cool place, and I’m very excited to be performing there, also I love that everything is purple!”
As well as Colossal, Patrick will also be performing alongside his twin brother in Pear which also plays at the Underbelly Cowgate, “We haven’t been on stage together since we were at school, and this will be his first time performing comedy, so that’s going to be very exciting to see what he’s like there, and for us to play off each other.”
Patrick hopes that Colossal will have something for everyone, “it sometimes it feels like a musical, sometimes it feels like a bit of stand up, sometimes it feels like a sketch show, and yes, hopefully it’s funny. That’s the main thing I wanted Colossal to be is funny, and then after that, hopefully it has a point.”
Colossal by Patrick McPherson is at Underbelly Cowgate (Belly Button) 4th– 28th August (not 15th) at 12:45.