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Waking hours with actress Mary Murray: 'You can't just sit around and allow other people to control your life'

Mary Murray (41) is an actress, producer, drama teacher and singer. She runs her own drama school - Visions. From Ballyfermot, she lives in Chapelizod with her partner, Derek


Actress Mary Murray. Pic:Mark Condren 3.9.2020

Actress Mary Murray. Pic:Mark Condren 3.9.2020

Actress Mary Murray. Pic:Mark Condren 3.9.2020

I live in Chapelizod with the love of my life, Derek. I'm up early in the morning, doing squats and sit-ups. It sets me up for the day. I'm an actress. I've just started rehearsals for a play called Embargo by Deirdre Kinahan. It is being produced by Fishamble theatre company and it is part of the Dublin Theatre Festival. It's so good to be back.

The last thing I saw was Nancy Harris's Our New Girl at the Gate. And then everything closed. I had a lot of things lined up and they were put on hold. Now things are slowly starting to happen again.

With Covid-19, theatre has definitely been abandoned. Nobody was given proper information and people were coming back with varying ideas.

When Deirdre Kinahan told me that she had written this piece for me and that my voice was in her head, I was honoured. Fishamble theatre company found lots of new ways to put on plays during Covid-19. They had writing competitions, Tiny Plays for Ireland and this play - Embargo - is site-specific.

One part of the play takes place in the Enterprise Lounge in Connolly Station and the other in the Pumphouse in Dublin Port. There will be an audience of 15 in one venue and 30 in the other. The audience will be physically distanced by two metres and they'll be able to move around as well.

The play is about the arms embargo in 1920. The dockers and train drivers decided that they weren't going to transport military ammunition. When you meet my character, she has just attacked a prominent businessman and left him for dead. There are two other characters in the play and you get a snapshot into their lives. My character has been through the 1913 Lockout too. We get a real taste of life in Dublin 100 years ago.

I'm also doing a rehearsed reading of Geoff Power's Stronger with Gúna Nua theatre company. And I will be in an Irish comedy film called Let the Wrong One In and I play a queen vampire.

I'm involved in a theatre company called Corps Ensemble, which I set up. We had our own little theatre in the top of the Bohemian Bar in Phibsboro and it was going really well. We will be doing a series of readings of new writing in October in the Axis. My sister Laura is an actress too and we were about to start filming a pilot comedy for Channel 4 but that was put on hold.

As well as acting, I run a drama school called Visions in Temple Bar Music Centre. That's been closed since Covid-19, but in the meantime there are lots of bits and pieces coming in with that. I run the agency linked to the school and there are auditions for the kids. Most of them have been for auditions for supermarket TV ads.

When I was a kid, I got involved in acting. I did a talent competition when I was five. I recited a poem that we did in elocution class in school. My older brothers were competing too. We all got into the final and then I came third. My brothers had been telling me that I was too small and just a girl, so when I won the prize, I felt great. I was better at it than them. Later on, when I was acting in school plays, I thought, 'If I could do this for the rest of my life, I'd be happy forever.' Now that's what I do. But I work at it.

You can't just sit around and allow other people to control your life. Even during Covid-19, I kept myself busy. I can't sit around and wait because I know that causes depression. I remember when I was 18, I had been getting a lot of film work and then there was this big gap with nothing. I felt so awful that I could have jumped off a high building. I decided that I never wanted to feel like that again and that was the impetus to make things happen. So, I write, I create and I direct.

That's always been my way, but it's been my family's way as well. My parents used to work in the markets and my dad ran a garden centre business, so he was always creating stuff. If there is a way to make something happen, we'll make it happen. We don't sit around waiting for permission.

I'm often cast as a tough working-class Dub and I suppose that's one of the reasons I got the part of Janet in Love/Hate. Casting directors always look for the most authentic voice. It's so much more than an accent. It's the way a person carries themselves and how they appear on the screen that really comes across.

I'm from Ballyfermot and it's in my blood to have that awareness of the underworld, as well as the lovely happy world that I live in. You get to see stuff that you wouldn't want to see sometimes, so that's all there from the past. It means that I don't have to work hard at it but obviously your skills as an actor come into play. But it's also about all the stuff you've learned down through the years, like how to work on a film set. Sometimes people watch Fair City and they think that they could do that. But they don't realise that to even get into that room to talk to casting directors, the actors have had to prove themselves over and over again.

I'm so delighted that I'm going to have a live audience again. I don't care if there aren't 1,100 people, like in the Gaiety. I want that fear again and I don't want it. It's still a very scary thing. People have paid for their tickets. They are looking for an amazing show and you've got to give it to them. I can't wait.





Fishamble presents 'Embargo' by Deirdre Kinahan, part of DTF 2020

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