Monday, March 20, 2006

Mikel Murfi's Farce

“As an actor, I’m known for is shouting my lines and falling down holes,” says Mikel Murfi of his work with the clown troupe, Barabbas. “I enjoy the notion of as an actor you’re able to fire yourself across the stage and bang your head and then go straight on with what you’re doing.” Which will have come as mixed news to the cast of The Walworth Farce, which Murfi is currently directing for Druid Theatre Company in Galway.

Murfi style of performance is among the most demanding, the most full body, among Irish actors. In one Barabbas show, Hupnouse, a scene involved the Jacques LeCoq trained actor using his bare backside as a pair of giant puppet lips, delivering his lines while moving his cheeks in time with the words. Johnny Noxville would be proud.

In recent time, however, Murfi has appeared on stage less, instead looking to the draw the same sort of physical performances out of other actors. The change, he suggests, has something to do with the aging process.

“I have sometimes done things in terms of physical theatre that I’m not now maybe able to pull off with the same aplomb. It may even be true that I might have my best work done in that style, but I like that there are other types of challenges out there in terms of acting. And the great thing about working with other actors who are able to perform in a really physical style is that these actors can let you do things that at this stage you can’t do yourself.”

After directing comedian-turned-playwright, Mark O’Doherty’s first play, Trad, (which premiered at Galways Arts Festival and will open at the Bush Theatre in London later this year) he is back in Galway for Druid’s re-engagement with contemporary writing, follow the company’s epic Synge cycle.

Anyone who is familiar with the Walsh’s Bedbound (in which a father and daughter live their entire lives on top of a double bed) will know the territory of the Walworth Farce. The action may have been shifted to London’s Irish community, but the bizarre is still to the fore, as a father and his sons re-enact – again and again and with the help of a carrier bag of ritual Tesco’s nosh – a scene from their past.

“Enda is a fantasic man for getting straight to the core of very disturbed people,” says Murfi of the show which he suggests will offer something quite different from just another night at the theatre.

“He likes to examine the lives of broken people and that is what he is doing here. In this play, I think he puts the audience on three rollarcoaster but they only know they are on two. It’s a high risk strategy in terms of how it works, and the speed it goes at: I think for some people, it will be a great challenge. And some people will find it just crazy.”

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