Mark Murphy is a man whose productions are in global demand – and Eden Court audiences will get the chance to find out why next week.
Known recently for creating lavish outdoor spectacles – notably, Mark crafted the Commonwealth Games’ closing ceremony, and the Presidential Torch Lighting Ceremony for the first European Games in Baku – he returns to the theatre after 10 years away with new show Out of this World – coming to Inverness on Tuesday and Wednesday.
And Mark can’t wait to bring his vision back to the boards. “As ever I’m just glad to be creating full stop – I never take it for granted,” he said.
“I like to think I approach all the work I make in broadly the same way – find the story that beats at the heart of the thing and do all you can to tell that story in the most direct and thrilling way possible.
“What has been refreshing coming back indoors is the time and focus to dig a little deeper than one can with a cast of 3000!”
Out of this World is a multimedia production that showcases the story of Ellen from inside her own head, after she is placed in a medically-induced coma following a car crash – and her fight for life.
“Almost seven years ago I had some dreamy thoughts about a woman sinking slowly to the bottom of a vast ocean – only to discover a version of herself down there,” Mark explained. “That led me to thinking about her seeking a place of safety in which she could try to come to terms with some stuff in her past and perhaps have the luxury of ‘rehearsing’ what could become her life in the future.”
“But this is of course a retrospective take on the process because at the time you simply feel like you’re lurching from one life raft to another in a stormy sea of doubt and humiliation – kind of.
“And for me, to go in search of meaning is pointless. I hope to gather the facts of the story and then what it ‘means’ will be the magic part.”
The performance juggles a lot of disparate elements – theatre, aerial choreography, film, special effects and storytelling – to craft its narrative.
Yet juggling these multiple branches of media and binding them together into a cohesive whole is one of the things that Mark enjoys most about putting on a production.
“The short answer is this is very much how I see things in my minds’ eye,” he explained. “I very rarely see an idea from just one point of view.
“But what is critical is every element must justify its existence in the show by how it supports the story.
“It’s very tempting to include things because they look great but it’s actually a thrilling pleasure to cut the things you’re most proud of if they do nothing for the story or the emotional landscape of the characters.
The play comes to Eden Court as part of a scheme where theatregoers can pay what they can for tickets on both nights of the show. The theatre says that they hope the offer will encourage people who have never experienced a live stage show before to come along.
It’s a scheme that Mark is fully on board with – and he questions why theatre shouldn’t be more willing to embrace the model. “Shouldn’t all aspects of life be based around ‘pay what you can’?” he said. “Then perhaps all the good stuff, all the things that bring us pleasure – especially opportunity – wouldn’t be hostage to how much cash you have.
“It saddens me that if I was 18 years old now and someone with my proud working class, council estate background, I simply would not have the opportunities I had 30 years ago. Times that by millions of young people across the country who have been robbed of a chance based solely on their monetary worth, then you have a divided and unhappy society.
“What I can say is that every person working in theatre should be looking for ways to take down barriers and spread the word to as many as possible.
“Personally, my work has always been popular with those who wouldn’t necessarily think of themselves as theatre goers – perhaps because I’ve no problem with the word ‘ENTERTAIN’ being the first thing on my list.”
Out of this World comes to Eden Court on Tuesday and Wednesday. For full details, go to www.eden-court.co.uk