SHOWTIME?Michael Murphy, who will be joined on The Royal Theatre’s stage by Eamon Lawlor, Eileen Dunne, Deirdre Purcell and Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
Home to Mayo
Castlebar native Michael Murphy heads up a critically acclaimed show to be staged in his home town this weekend
Before the days of multiple satellite TVs and online platforms all under the one roof, Irish kids in the ’80s and ’90s nearly always watched the RTÉ news, sometimes under duress, as their parents caught up on the news of the day.
Michael Murphy, Eamon Lawlor, Eileen Dunne and Deirdre Purcell were among the faces we grew up with. As the Berlin Wall fell, the Gulf War started and The Troubles continued, it was this quartet and their colleagues who told us the what, the when and the how.
Now they are coming together for a very different project. ‘An Intimate Evening with Michael Murphy and Friends’ has been touring around Ireland in recent months, and it comes to Murphy’s native Castlebar this Friday night.
Michael, Eamon, Eileen and Deirdre will read from Michael’s memoirs and books of poetry. And anyone who read Michael’s immensely personal memoir ‘At Five In The Afternoon’ will know that the details contained within are as stark and as shocking as many of the news stories the quartet broke into our living rooms.
The newscaster and psychoanalyst wrote candidly and bravely about his own cancer battle, about incidents of physical and sexual abuse in his childhood and about coming out as a gay man.
The show has been a hit thus far, receiving standing ovations on each of the eight nights it has been staged around Ireland.
Out of the comfort zone
Michael initially pitched the idea to his RTÉ friends, who he remains close with even though he has retired from newsreading.
“I rang them up. We’re good friends. We meet every three months or so for a meal, and sure they were delighted to be able to tread the boards, so that was that,” he explained.
His show also pushes them in directions they are not used to.
“At one stage Eileen Dunne sings ‘I dreamt I dwelt in Marble Halls’, and she tells stories; it’s absolutely out of her comfort zone. It has challenged all of us, indeed. I think they rose to that challenge.
“People come up to me afterwards … I remember one woman in Cork came up and said ‘this has changed my life’. Really humbling stuff. People are moved, I think, by the show.”
Now aged 67, Michael is in a healthy state after prostate cancer, and – like in his memoirs – he gives a lot of himself in the show he heads up.
“But it’s not just my story,” he counters. “Obviously some of the events apply to me, but it is a story that applies to everybody. We’ve all had our difficulties in life and tragedies that happen to us, and we’ve all had to cope in various ways, so everybody can relate to what happened,” he says.
Bringing it all back home
Michael Murphy describes bringing his show to Castlebar as ‘hugely important’. It comes one month after the death of his mother, Sue, who he describes as someone who was ‘a very important woman’ in his life.
The quartet will take to the stage alongside special guest, former politician Máire Geoghegan-Quinn.
Though Michael Murphy has lived in Dublin most of his adult life, where he still works full-time as a psychoanalyst (his RTÉ work was only ever part-time), he remains very proud of his native county.
The audience in the Royal Theatre on Friday night will be treated to the first airing of a poem Michael has written called ‘Home to Mayo’. It will end the first half of the show.
“That’s something very special that’s going into the show. I wanted it to be worthy of the people of Mayo, so it has taken a lot of work.
“It’s a reclaiming of my roots, if you like. It’s about what being a Mayo man means and the resilience that the people of Mayo have had down through the years, even on the football pitch. There’s a line in there:
Watching Mayo in the final,
Giving of their best,
Trying their utmost,
“In other words they never, ever give up,” Michael explains, “and that’s a wonderful quality that we should celebrate in Mayo.”