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THE BIG INTERVIEW: FTN interviews playwright Brenda Murphy about her latest play Baby It’s Cold Outside

December 30th, 2013 by Conor ONeill Comments

WEST Belfast born, bred and life-long resident, Brenda Murphy, is the author of twenty odd plays, all of which have made it to production, and has a trophy cabinet of awards under her belt including the NESTA Award, the Hennessy Award and three Aishling Awards. Following The Nerd met up with Brenda as the opening of her latest play Baby It’s Cold Outside, produced by Martin Lynch’s GBL production and being performed at Belfast’s MAC Theatre approaches.

FTN: What got you into writing plays and how long have you been at?

BM: I started of writing poetry and prose and Palm Brighton was writing Bin Lids and invited me along to rehearsals, she found out I was a local woman and invited me to write a few scenes. I ended up writing 23 out of the 60 scenes and things have just progressed from there.

FTN: How do you start writing a play and do you have any formal training?

BM: No, I’ve never received any training, I’ve just learnt on the job. As for ideas, I maybe hear something in a pub or get an idea from people I talk to. For instance my last play A Night With George came from a story about a woman who was drunk at a Garth Brooks gig and stole a life size cardboard cut-out of Garth and brought it home with her and spilt her heart out to it. I simply changed it to George Clooney and went from there.

FTN: You’re best known for your political plays, what got you into comedy?

BM: Well all my plays have always had a black comedy element to them, but with a Night with George and with this one, Baby It’s Cold Outside, I wanted a pure comedy. There’s obviously a political edge to it as it deals with sexuality and the prejudices and preconceptions of people. Joe, the male figure in the play, can’t get his had round the idea that lesbians can be beautiful, intelligent, and independent, you know there’s still some people that think lesbians roll their own tampons and don’t shave their legs, and with this play I wanted to challenge such notions. After you watch this play and stop laughing hopefully you’ll stop and think.

FTN: How long does it normally take to get a play from the initial idea to production?

My last play, A Night With George, came from a story about a woman who was drunk at a Garth Brooks gig and stole a life-size cardboard cut-out of Garth and brought it home with her and spilt her heart out to it

BM: It depends on the play, for this one I got the idea from a woman in my writing class and the idea sat in my head for about a year. I still write in longhand and my sister types it up when I think I’m done.’

FTN: ‘What about critics, how do you deal with them?’

BM: Anyone who says they don’t read reviews is a liar, but listen, I’m from west Belfast, people round here will tell you in the local shop if they like your play or not. I’m not saying I don’t get upset about criticism, but it all ends in numbers. The playwright gets five per cent of the box office, if you don’t sell you get five per cent of nothing.’

FTN: ‘The blurb on GBL’s website says the MAC is booked, the playwright is working away, is a play ever finished or do you tweak it during its run?

BM: I’m always rewriting, actors hate it, but sometimes actors tell you when they think a bit needs rewritten, and I’ll take that on board. Rewriting also keeps actors on their feet. In a long run sometimes things get a bit stale, by maybe changing or reorganising the sequences of scenes a bit of fresh energy is put into the play.

FTN: With the greatest respect to Brassneck and other local theatre companies, what’s the biggest difference about working with the like of Martin Lynch and GBL?

BM: Martin Lynch is extremely professional and has the where-with-all and advertising at his feet. When you’re setting up on your own with your own cash I usually work on a split with the actors and the technical people. What we take at the door gets shared out equally. Martin has what I don’t have which is basically clout, the contacts and the money. He watched A Night With George and he wanted it, he watched this one and he wouldn’t put money into anything if he didn’t think it would work.

I’m always rewriting, actors hate it, but sometimes actors tell you when they think a bit needs rewritten, and I’ll take that on board

FTN: Any final words for our readers?

BM: Get a few drinks into you, come down to the MAC and enjoy yourself.

Baby It’s Cold Outside runs from January 21 to February 9, 2014, for booking details contact the MAC on 02890235053 or visit the site here

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Conor O'Neill is at times a playwright and a qualified journalist. He has worked for the Belfast Telegraph, Portadown Times and South Belfast Advertiser. He also contributes to various online e-zines, specialising in theatre, gig reviews and other cultural events. If you were to ask him what he does, he will say 'I'm functioning'... that's a lie. Best suited to pressure and deadlines, O'Neill thrives on the moment, the passion and the thrill of now, he's only happy when he's watching or reviewing a play.

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