“It was fascinating,” he continues. “The Ancient Olympics were like the Glastonbury of their day – attracting not only the competitors, but a whole host of hangers on too. And I’ve always found sport itself to be quite funny.”
“Then I started reading Aristophanes [ancient Greek comic playwright] and came up with the premise for The Games – it’s one of his ‘newly discovered’ plays, set at the ancient Olympics…”
“It’s presented a lot of opportunities – and challenges – as we continued to devise it,” he says. “Like how to represent massive sporting events on stage; and how to deal with nakedness.”
“There’s a lot you can do with a pair of ping-pong balls and some stuffed tights…”
Based in Liverpool, Spike Theatre started in 1997, evolving from a street theatre outfit into a physical theatre and comedy company. One of their first productions – a tribute to Ealing-style comedies – proved extremely successful, and they established themselves as a touring company shortly after.
They produce most of their work using devised, collaborative methods rather than working from a script.
“It’s playwriting up on its feet,” says Mark. “It’s fantastic getting a fun group of people together and throwing loads of ideas into the melting pot; then making those ideas real.”
Spike were last in Edinburgh as a company in 2005, though Mark himself visits every year.
“The Fringe is fantastic,” he says. “I love the international aspect of it. You can end up seeing the bizarrest things that end up being amazing; things that play in Edinburgh for 24 days then are never heard from again.”
And the team behind The Games are looking forward to coming to the city in August.
“We’re all very excited,” says Mark. “One of the cast trained at Queen Margaret; and our lighting tech is from Edinburgh, so they’re looking forward to coming back.”
“And we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeves for when we get there!”
Having witnessed their ping-pong balls on one of their YouTube videos, we can only begin to imagine…
Let The Games commence at the Zoo Roxy on 5 August. More details on the Fringe website.