Irish Daily Mail
HAPPENING IN THE Love/Hate star Mary seeks a new kind of justice
AS an actress Mary Murray has never been afraid to tackle roles that are difficult. She will be familiar to many as the put-upon brothel keeper Janet from Love/Hate, where she managed to play a character who had a hard edge but also deserved and gained our empathy.
Now she is taking to the stage in a new play, Stronger, which centres round yet another difficult and powerful subject, dealing as it does with the issue of rape and restorative justice.
Billed for the Dublin Theatre Festival last year before Covid restrictions called a halt, the production by Guna Nua is loosely based on a true story.
And Dubliner Mary is excited to finally see what audiences think of it.
‘It’s the full production and it’s very exciting just to get out there with a real audience in a real theatre,’ she says of the show which opens tonight at the Smock Alley Theatre as part of the Dublin Theatre Festival.
‘It is 60 per cent capacity - I mean we’d love to have 100 per cent capacity but it is great to be able to be somewhere and hear the reaction of people. And it means we are not stuck in that theatre streaming world forever so it’s a joy. I can’t wait to do it.’
Mary did her fair share of streaming over the last 18 months too but insists there’s nothing to beat the buzz of a live audience.
‘Streaming has been wonderful in that we were opened up to a whole new world that didn’t exist before Covid. When we used to film plays it was just for posterity or to send on to a producer to try and get the show in another theatre. But over the last year they put an awful lot of effort into making these films a really high standard for broadcasting.
‘It was a great experience to learn from but I am so glad it’s back to live theatre because that’s what we live for the reaction of an audience, to feel their presence and know that they are understanding what’s happening at that moment. It’s great to be back to that.’
Stronger is being presented at the festival by Gúna Nua and writer Geoff Power was inspired by true events centring round the emerging practice of Restorative Justice and redemption.
It tells the story of Jan, played by Murray, a teacher sexually assaulted by her student who, as she goes through the legal system, finds herself struggling as her assailant pleads innocent. She decides to go down the route of restorative justice, to meet her attacker face to face and discuss what has happened with the help of a mediator.
During the run of the play on Thursday 7 October at 4.00pm, Gúna Nua will host a forum (webinar) on Restorative Justice - an on-line event for audiences to hear from and question experts in this important field of justice.
In a strange twist of fate one of Mary’s own former pupils from her stage school, Scott Graham plays Damon, the pupil who assaulted her.
‘Restorative justice is not some
thing rape victims getnerally get invovled in as they usuall have to meet with the perpetrator whichis too difficult for them,’ she says. ‘But this is centred round a true story which is extremely powerful.
‘I am playing this part with Scott Graham who is a drama student of mine from years gone by. I used to teach Scott drama from the age of about nine or ten to 17 or 18. He’s done an awful lot of work in film and television and I always remember admiring him so much and always watching and seeing his talent and wanting him to go to all the places he wanted to go. And this teacher sees this talent in her pupil Damon who Scott plays.’
So to have that sense of betrayal of trust from the characters makes them all the more relatable.
‘It doesn’t take much figuring out.
Scott is a brilliant actor and we have such trust in each other that we can go there.’
Mary is back teaching in person now for the first time since Covid hit, although she kept up her classes on Zoom.
And as far RTE’s new gangster drama Kin goes, Mary is enjoying watching it and doesn’t feel criticism that it glamorises gangland life is warranted.
‘You want to watch dramatic scenes that make an impact but at the end of the day the real world these people live in, their family members and friends are being killed and they are always under threat. And what kind of a life is that to have if you are always looking over your shoulder, no matter how big your car is or how swanky your house? It’s not worth it. And like Live/Hate I think that message is there in Kin too.’
Mary will soon be seen on the big screen in spoof horror film Let the Wrong One In as a vampire.
‘It’s a spoof horror and I play the vampire queen Sheila and my fiance is Anthony Head who played the professor in Buffy the vampire slayer,’ she says.
‘The film was the best fun to be in. We had the best craic and I got to be in it with my sister Laura as well— she plays a vampire in it. Conor McMahon directed it and I don’t think I’ve has as much fun on a film ever in my life.’
Mary Murray stars in Gúna Nua Theatre Company’s STRONGER by Geoff Power, which premieres at Smock Alley Theatre, as part of Dublin Theatre Festival, from today until October 9.