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Cillian Murphy Is the Misterman

The acclaimed film star returns to the stage in Enda Walsh's provocative one-man show.

By New York City
Cillian Murphy in Misterman
(© Colm Hogan)
Cillian Murphy in Misterman
(© Colm Hogan)
While Cillian Murphy is best known for his work on the big screen in The Dark Knight, Inception, Red Eye, and 28 Days Later, his first love is the theater, where he got his start 15 years ago in Enda Walsh's Disco Pigs. Playwright and actor have now reteamed for the solo piece Misterman, which is currently at St. Ann's Warehouse. TheaterMania spoke to Murphy to discuss the work, his long relationship with Walsh, and the differences between working in film and theater.

THEATERMANIA: You first performed Misterman at the Galway Arts Festival this summer. Has the character stayed with you since then?
CILLIAN MURPHY: I knew that we'd be bringing it here, so I kind of kept him. I didn't put him away.

TM: How'd you first get involved with the project?
CM: Enda and I live quite close to each other in London. I hadn't done theater in about five or six years, and I was quite anxious to get back, so I was reading a lot of plays and trying to figure out what I should do. Then I thought: why don't me and Enda work together again? It'd been so long, and it was such great fun the first time.

TM: What was the biggest joy -- and the biggest challenge -- for you coming back to the theater?
CM: It's just the immediacy of theater that I love, and that contract that you make with the audience when you step on stage. I guess the thing with the one-man show is that it's kind of the Everest of acting, you know? So that was a bit of a challenge.

TM: Do you feel there's a more intimate connection with the audience in a one-man show?
CM: I think there's a natural good will that an audience has towards a one-man show because it's so delicate what you're trying to create. It's just total immersion. That's what I enjoy in acting.

TM: How would you describe your character?
CM: He's this guy who's replaying one day in his life, and he's trying in some way to make sense of it. He's recorded the characters in the town, and plays their voices back on reel-to-reel tape recorders. There's a lot going on.

TM: Does it feel any different to you performing in Brooklyn as opposed to Galway?
CM: We did it in sort of a warehouse space in Galway too, so it's not unfamiliar. St. Ann's is a beautiful space, and the audience last night was really into it and really nice.

TM: Do you have to keep the character in your head throughout the day or is it something that you can turn on and off for performances?
CM: No, you've got to keep it alive all the time, and you've got to keep those lines going. I walk around the city reciting the lines. It's also quite demanding physically, so you have to look after yourself, but I love all that stuff. That's why we do it.

TM: What's it like working with Enda as both the writer and director?
CM: I always like working with writer/directors because they have direct access to the material. It's just right there in their brains and imaginations. They pretty much have an answer for everything. Coupled with that, we're really close friends with a lot of shared history, so there's a great deal of trust there between us. I think for a piece like this, it's pretty risky and pretty dangerous. You need to have that trust.

TM: What's the biggest difference for you performing on stage as opposed to in films?
CM: Film is capturing moments, and then assembling those moments to give you your story. Theater, obviously, is the whole story in one fell swoop. Film is a delayed experience because you do it, and then a year later you see this performance that you handed over to the director and editor. In theater, it's right there and it's dangerous. Things can go wrong, but if they do, you just have to adjust and run with it.


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