Interview: “On his own”- Rob Murphy of 69 Shades of Grey

69 shade1sFrances Winston interviews Rob Murphy of 69 Shades of Gay.

Rob Murphy has one of those faces that you look at and think you recognise but you can’t quite place it. That could be because he usually spends part of the year dressed as a woman- actually a panto-dame to be precise. That is because he is best known as Buffy in the hugely popular ‘Cheerios’ panto.

If that’s not where you place him from, you may remember him as aspiring singer in ‘I’m A Celeb’ star Nadia Forde’s BFF in various reality shows. However, his latest role sees him lose the security blanket of an ensemble cast or friends, and step out on stage on his own, playing Aiden, a Dublin gay boy about town, in 69 Shades of Gay in Dublin’s Smock Alley Theatre.

This one man show sees his character, Aiden, prepare to finally settle down with ‘the one’, who just happens to be the 69th guy he’s dated. As he deletes contact details and memories from his phone, the audience are taken on a journey through the highs, lows and often rather naughty aspects of his love life.

It’s a daunting task for any actor to hold an audience’s attention on their own, and especially when you are used to having the support of other performers, but it’s a challenge that Rob is relishing the thoughts of.

“There’s definitely an element of loneliness,” he says. “I am used to having the cast in the wings watching and having other people there to support you and work with. It’s definitely going to be a weird one, and it’s a very different challenge. It’s great though and I have the support of the director, Ronnie McCann, and the writer, Stuart Thomas, and we’ve had a lot of fun in rehearsals for the last three weeks, and after all the work, I’m just ready to get it out there now.”

The run falls very shortly after the close of the Dublin International Gay Theatre Festival so audiences are particularly receptive to gay theatre at the moment, but Rob says this wasn’t the intention stating: “I think the producers were actually more trying to tie in with Pride so that’s just a co-incidence.”

“I don’t think it’s just gay theatre though,” he adds. “Brian Merriman, who runs that festival, does such an amazing job and there probably is a bit more awareness. But I think the Yes vote had a huge impact on whether or not more mainstream audiences would come to a show like this. It really made a huge difference to how the gay community was seen and opened it up to people.”

“I really hope everyone gay, straight or whatever comes along. I mean I know some women coming along and they’re bringing their fellas and husbands and stuff. I think there’s something for everyone in it.”

And in terms of the subject matter, he does think everyone of any persuasion will be able to relate.

“This is essentially a show about relationships and people get that. Everyone can relate to that idea of finding the one and reflecting on your past encounters. Obviously his experiences are a bit naughtier than most but people will get it.”

Asked if he personally can relate to Aiden he reflects slightly before answering.

“Well I mean I can relate to the whole online dating thing and stuff because you know I met my current boyfriend on Grinder so I get that. But Aiden isn’t really a typical gay man. He’s very naughty and he does things that I and my friends would never dream of. Obviously on some level, I would relate to him, but he is essentially very different to me.”

Of course it would have been rude of us not to mention the N word – Nadia! Asked if she was popping along to see the show he responded:

“Unfortuntely she can’t. She’s moving to Tokyo for six months – not for good like some media have said – but she won’t be here. I’m going to Facetime her the dress rehearsal before the first night though. And there’s talk of it being brought to the UK, so hopefully she can catch it then when she’s back.”

And what about his other friends and family? Will their presence make him a bit nervous if they attend the show?

“I approach each show as if I know no-one in the audience” he says. “The only thing is that in Panto and in this show there is audience participation, and the one thing I do deliberately is that I wouldn’t target someone I knew. I don’t go near them.”

69 Shade of Gay is at Smock Alley Theatre 7.30pm, 30 May – 11 June 2016 Tickets: €25/20 concession (Student tickets only €15 on Thursdays)

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