Peter Groom talks about bringing Marlene Dietrich to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival

Name: Peter Groom
Name of Edinburgh show: Dietrich: Natural Duty
Venue: Pleasance Courtyard, Besides
Performance time: 3.30pm
Show length: 1 h
Ticket price: £11

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself and your performing background?
I am an actor, I graduated from Guildford School of Acting in 2013, since then I’ve worked both here in UK and internationally (One Side to the Other Akram Khan Company, MEAT Schaubuhne Berlin, Romeo and Juliet and Sherlock Holmes Aquila Theatre, New York). Alongside this I also began to create my own devised work. I started working as a drag performer in 2016 with performances at Battersea Arts Centre, The Glory and Royal Vauxhall Tavern.

Tell me about your show, what it is all about?
Dietrich: Natural Duty is all about icon Marlene Dietrich’s incredible commitment to duty. We focus particularly on the war years, exploring how she put her Hollywood persona to good use, marching with and entertaining allied soldiers on the front lines to help fight the fascism that was gripping her homeland.

How long have you been working on this show and what is it that makes it relevant to audiences in 2018?
We created the show in late 2017 and first performed as part of VAULT Festival London in Jan 2018. I think the themes of the show are very current – it isn’t a museum piece. It’s a classic story, but I think a lot of people don’t know her history; and I think there’s a lot to be said about the fact that we don’t have to look far for comparisons to what was happening in the 30s, and now.
We all have a platform and a voice, and I’m interested in what we do with that – what do we do politically to help, or make a difference, or to take a stand against what you think is right? There are so many parallels with the time back then and now; the idea of a country changing is just one.
For example Brexit; what do you do when your country no longer agrees with what you think? And there’s also the queer aspect to it. Marlene is a queer icon, and as queer people, what do we do when the place we’re from doesn’t agree with who we are?

Do you have any top tips for surviving the Edinburgh Fringe Festival – both for performers and visitors to the event?
I have never done a full month at Edinburgh before so if you know of any please tell me! At the moment my plan is sobriety , sleep and Berocca. But ask me again in the third week, it may be very different!

What has been the funniest or most embarrassing thing that has ever happened to you on stage?
I played the nurse in Romeo and Juliet once, on a tour in America, and the actor playing Romeo , we had a scene together and we would mix up where we moved around each tonight, it was a long tour! One night it just happened he was kneeling, I went and sat next to him on a raised block. At just the right moment I (Sharon stone style, not quite as provocatively I hasten to add) switched which leg was crossed, and just at that moment he turned to look at me and saw right up the Nurses skirt . We then had to play the whole scene knowing what Romeo must have seen. We tried so hard to keep it together and the minute the scene was done we ran into the wings and fell about laughing.

Who are your biggest inspirations in the industry and why?
Recently I am really inspired by David Hoyle. I met him last week as we performed at Curious Festival together. He saw my show and stood up at the end, and that meant a lot. He is incredible, I see him whenever I can. I know no one else who onstage mixes danger, wit, anarchy and humour like he can, to watch him with an audience is wonderful!

Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Not really, getting into drag takes up most of my pre –show time!

What other acts are you looking forward to seeing at Edinburgh Fringe?
So many! I cant wait for Velma Celli’s ‘Iconic’, I haven’t seen it yet and it looks amazing! That certainly will not be one to miss!

Why do you think people should come and see your show over the thousands of others on at the fringe?
Songs, Sequins, Sex and Sympathy. It’s glamorous, its sexy, and her story is incredible poignant. If you know her and her work, come! If you don’t, come!


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