Tag Archives: Martin Murphy

“Jury” from the Park Theatre

Yet another venue missed by many during the lockdown is Jez Bond’s Finsbury Park theatre. But while the stage lights are off, work has still been going on. This entertaining new play from Martin Murphy, part of a creative learning programme forced online, is the result.

Written to be performed as a conference call, the format may be already over-familiar but it works well enough. Jury is distinguished by its ambition and subject matter. If the comedy and drama aren’t as well balanced as they might be, it’s a lot more interesting than its real-life equivalent.

The scenario first: this Zoom call is a serious one. Twelve members of the public are called to a high-profile criminal trial. The pressure social distancing has placed on the justice system, added to by a time limit on deliberations, adds topicality. If the comedy tone, like some of the characters, tackles the problem lightly, the issue is well-worth remembering.

Of the 12 characters we meet, many are too broadly depicted and their prejudices a touch too transparent. Possibly, the wish to distinguish a large number of people quickly preoccupied Murphy. Nonetheless, Sara Odeen-Isbister’s heavily accented Ukranian Anya is naughtily funny. And Stefania Jardim’s Jal is great value, too. It’s all held together nicely by the increasingly exasperated foreperson Mel, played by Jacquie Cassidy. Maria Thomas manages to inject some drama with her character, Keenan, talking the most sense. It’s a shame Eileen Christie’s character of Pat is the only one to have serious moments alongside nice comic touches.

As for the show’s ambition, anyone who has to deal with calls of this kind is sure to be impressed by the rehearsal process, let alone the final outcome. Director Amy Allen, with help from video editor Akeal Iqbal, highlight the flaws and problems of the technology with a natural touch. The action is swift and exciting. This is one conference call that isn’t so frustrating you want it to be over as soon as possible.

Until 2 September


“Villain” at the King’s Head Theatre

This is a great little show. With plenty of issues and just one performer, writer and director Martin Murphy creates a tense and moving story that puts hearts in mouths while injecting some strong comedy. The character of Rachel, a successful saleswoman turned social worker, is likeable from the start. When she becomes publicly demonised after a case goes horribly wrong, sympathy mounts. Flitting back and forth to her former job provides some light relief and exposes her flaws. Making his heroine realistic and modulating a tone of confession with camaraderie is Murphy’s key achievement and it reaps big dividends.

Maddie Rice takes the part. Her performance is superb. Portraying fear while hounded by the press, claustrophobia and panic are all well done. But it’s filling out the portrait that is the point: looking behind the headlines and trolling tweets. With stories of her work life, riotous nights out and colleagues both “coping” and “cracking”, Rice shows her grade-A comic skills. An enthusiasm for life and doing good, along with the character’s selfishness and brutal honesty, endear her further, all balanced with a degree of unfulfilled loneliness skilfully evoked. This is a performance to treasure that complements satisfyingly strong writing.

Until 4 March 2017


“Worlds” at the Vault Festival

A set of strangers together in an isolated guest house might normally be associated with a murder mystery story, and there are puzzles in Martin Murphy’s new play, which he also directs. But his series of intimate glimpses into multiple lives is gentler than even a Miss Marple. Storytelling seem to be the purpose here – fair enough – but, while scenes are set up and acted well, they don’t develop far.

The odd building, converted into a hotel, is said to have had “many guises”. There’s a mish-mash of visitors, including a middle-aged couple having an affair and two youngsters starting a family, and a few too many metaphors to allow a comfortable stay. Themes of union and dissolution almost manage to link the stories but they’re a bit too open. And there’s a Brexit analogy that strikes a very odd note. The vignettes each have potential, but presenting only tasters is quite unsatisfying. It’s a tribute to the several characters that you want to see more and, as a way of showing Murphy’s versatility, the play succeeds.

Two actors, taking on all the roles, with just minimal costume changes, are impressive. Andrew Macklin’s popstar character is a hit and he has a good go at playing a young boy with cancer. Naomi Sheldon’s swaps include an intriguing dominatrix and a nice delineation of two older characters: a grandmother and the adorable landlady Briony. It’s these “many guises” that really drive the play.

Until 29 January 2017