Tadhg Murphy told David Hennessy about returning to the stage at The Royal Court Theatre, losing an eye in an accident when he was 13 and acting with big names such as Jason Statham, Alexander Skarsgard and Emily Blunt.
Dublin actor Tadhg Murphy can count parts in the well known historical drama Vikings, Sky comedy drama Brassic, Guy Ritchie’s latest Wrath of Man and the forthcoming Sally Rooney adaptation Conversations with Friends among his showreel.
However, his role in The Glow by Alistair McDowall sees him returning to the stage.
Blackrock actor Tadhg may have been absent from theatre for some years due to concentrating on film and TV but Tadhg got his career started with the Druid theatre company in Galway where he honed his skills. He has also worked extensively for the Abbey and Gate Theatres.
His work as Lucky in Gare St. Lazare’s production of Beckett’s Waiting for Godot saw him nominated for an Irish Times Irish Theatre Award for Best Supporting Actor.
He has featured in the work of Brian Friel, Martin McDonagh and told us that Enda Walsh, whose work he has appeared in multiple times, and Alistair McDowall that he has special admiration for making it a ‘no-brainer’ when asked to star in The Glow.
It is also a reunion for Tadhg and his co-star Ria Zmitrowicz and director Vicky Featherstone who is also Artistic Director of the Royal Court. All three worked on Bad Roads at the same theatre back in 2017.
Tadhg’s other London stage work includes Our Country’s Good directed by Nadia Fall at the National Theatre back in 2015.
The Glow starts in a Victorian asylum in 1863.
The story finds a woman locked in a windowless cell, with no memory as to who she is, or how she arrived there.
A spiritualist medium (BAFTA winner Rakie Ayola) is looking for an exploitable and disposable lost soul to be a conduit for summoning ghostly presences.
The nameless, unspeaking woman, played by Ria Zmitrowicz, goes home with her and her son But as the woman’s past begins to reveal itself, so do new powers neither are prepared for.
And beyond that, details are rare.
The play starts off with Ria Zmitrowicz’s character not saying a word.
And Tadhg has to almost adopt a similar approach in our interview just because he is so keen to not give too much away.
Tadhg told The Irish World: “It keeps it vague because it’s one of those plays where we don’t want to give anything away because you don’t want people to come with anything in mind.
“Because there’s enough going on in the play.
“It reveals itself as it goes on. It’s a play that sort of starts from nothing and by the end, the arc builds to everything.
“I know that’s completely vague and completely loose, but it’s a play about a woman’s journey through time.
“And it’s so not that either.”
His other screen credits include the role of Ned Low in the series Black Sails and Stephen Bradley’s Boy Eats Girl, for which he was nominated for Best Supporting Actor at the Irish Film and Television Awards.
In spite of his impressive screen showreel, does theatre have a special place in Tadhg’s heart as it is where he started? “Yes. It’s very, very dear to my heart actually.
“Over the last maybe four to five years I’ve been doing film and TV exclusively.
“So when this opportunity came up, as I’ve worked with Vicky before and I’ve worked with Ria before and I really enjoyed my last outing with them and then I love Alistair’s writing- So I read the play, and it was a no- brainer.
“So the only difficulty for me on this job has been being away from my son. I have a two-year-old. He’s back in Dublin with my girlfriend so that’s tricky navigating that but they’ve been coming over for a few days and then going back.
“So just navigating that really, that’s been the only issue. Everything else has been fantastic.
“It is a very happy time, I have to say. The people on this job are fantastic. Everybody’s top: Top quality, top class.
“I’d say it’s the happiest rehearsal period I’ve ever had.
“It really is.
“And I’m so happy to be back on stage in a play of this calibre.”
So what can Tadhg actually tell us about the play without ruining it?
“It’s impossible to talk about without ruining the experience. It’s so boring to be this lad, isn’t it? ‘Ah yeah, I have no answers to any of the questions’.
“What can I talk about? My character goes on a journey with the lead character basically and throughout the play, he makes many discoveries about himself through her.
“God, I’m so not helpful.
“I found it very moving when I read it.
“And when we did the first reading, I was really moved by it.
“And I didn’t know why.
“I found that it sort of hits your subconscious and it really works in that place from the first viewing.
“And now that we’ve mined over the last couple of weeks, I would be wise to which bits would be working their magic on me.
“But it definitely casts a spell, this play and it surprises you.
“Everyone’s gonna have their own narrative around what the play is about and what it means.
“It’s that open.
“It can only be that open by being so specific.
“Alistair is such a f**kin brilliant writer.
“The sentences are so economical. Every word means something.
“And he’s mined the sh*t out of it so it’s structurally perfect.
“It’s a play that will take people on a journey to the unknown and hopefully they discover something about themselves there.
“That’s certainly what happened to me both in reading and discovering it through rehearsal.
“I’d love to see it. It’s the kind of play I’d love to see.
“I knew that when I read it.
“I said, ‘I would love to see that’.
“And then more than that, it’s the kind of play that I’ve been dying to be in, you know?
“I love Alistair’s stuff.
“I do a lot of work with Enda Walsh. He’s another playwright who really excites me.
“So, Alistair and Enda. Those two writers, I would do anything.
“You know what I mean? Yeah. I’d do anything to be in their plays.
“I would implore people to come and see it.
“Of all the shows I’ve been involved in, this has been such an extraordinary experience and I believe that it will translate as such.
“I think this is a night that you will remember.
“It will be a shame to miss it especially as this is the birth of this play.
“It’s the first time.
“It’s its premiere to the world.
“I would love as an audience to be a part of that because I think it’s really exciting.
“I think it’s hugely entertaining and I think you come away with a sense of something else.
“That’s worth the price of the ticket, isn’t it?
“I think it’s going to challenge some preconceived notions and I think that will be very personal to anybody who comes to the show.
“It will be in them because I don’t think the play tells you what to think.
“I think it offers up a few ideas for you to put your own experiences on and to take a look at them.
“I think that’s brilliant and genius, the way it does that because it does that in the most entertaining and extraordinary way because the play is so full of energy.”
The play’s lead actor Ria Zmitrowicz is regarded as a star on the rise and was named a BAFTA Breakthrough Brit in 2018.
“But Ria was, along with Vicky and Alistair, the three of them were the trinity in terms of why I wanted to do the play because I knew all three of them and I know how brilliant all three of them are.
“I worked with Ria here on Bad Roads here a couple of years ago.
“And we had a big scene to do together and I found her to be- She is one of the best actors I’ve ever worked with.”
The big ‘scene’ he refers to here may be when his character raped Mia’s in Bad Roads.
“You want to work with the best, right?
“I think she’s so special.
“Of all the actors I’ve ever been around, she is really the cream of the crop.
“And then we’ve got Fisayo and Rakie and they are f**king so amazing.
“It’s great to be in a room where you get intimidated by the people that you’re rehearsing with.
“They raise the bar and you just want to try and meet that, you know?
“So I’m learning loads.
“It’s been such a good experience. It really has.”
Ria will be starring alongside Leslie Mann, Tim Robbins and Little Simz in Amazon Prime’s star-studded adaptation of Naomi Alderman’s Woman’s Prize-winning novel The Power where Eddie Marsan plays her father.
Coincidentally, Tadhg has just acted with Eddie Marsan in Guy Ritchie’s cold- blooded revenge thriller, Wrath of Man.
“He is sound. Such a nice man, Eddie. Eddie is great craic.
“He’s the kind of guy you want when you’re hanging around your trailer because he’s great with stories.
“And he’s just a solid dude and a brilliant actor, you know?”
Wrath of Man boasts an impressive cast led by Jason Statham but also including Scott Eastwood and Andy Garcia as well as Mullingar’s Niamh Algar.
“Great actors. Niamh Algar was in it. I was texting with Niamh earlier on.
“She’s great craic, Niamh. Oh my god.
“And yeah, the cast is quite star studded.
“I have to say I found there were no bogeys. Everyone was bang on.
“There was a great camaraderie behind the scenes with the actors in that movie, you know?
“It was great. I still talk to a lot of them, I’m still in touch with a lot of them.
“It was great. I was just happy to be working with Niamh because I think she’s awesome.
“They’re just good jobs, aren’t they? Where the people are sound, where the actors are sound and all that. It was good.”
Tadhg lost his eye in an accident when he was 13. Playing with home made bow and arrows as kids, he unfortunately got an arrow in the eye.
But he says it was then that he knew he wanted to act.
Tadhg tells the story, “I lost my eye when I was 13. I had an accident and it was around that time I decided, ‘You know, let’s say if my life had ended- I was only 13 years old, you know what I mean?- I just thought, ‘I’d love to be an actor’.
“So I wanted to be an actor and musician. So I did the two things for a while.
“I was in a band for a bit and then acting just took over, you know?”
Was it a great trauma to lose an eye at that young age? “The trauma came later in life. I had such good support from my family.
“When you’re that young, you bounce back very fast.
“You don’t really think about it.
“It’s only something later in life where it really sort of occurs to you.
“It’s something that I’ve really taken ownership of in the last couple of years and I f**king love it now.
“I think I never thought about it before.
“It’s definitely due to the partner that I have now, but also film and TV.
“It’s such a specific look so I just own it, you know that kind of way?
“Obviously I have a specific look so I’m not right for some things and other things I am.
“Like anybody who has anything like that, I use it as a strength.
“I would have no idea what I’ve lost because of it because that’s a different life. I’m not interested in that life.
“I think if you’ve got any sort of injury or disability, whatever it is- There’s a strength in that.
“And obviously that’s the thing to highlight.
“It would be weird if we were all going around going, ‘We need to be really negative about our ailments here. I think that’s really important, we all need to be victims’.
“Yeah, that would be odd if I was a champion of that.”
How did the accident happen? “It was a bow and arrow.
“The accident happened in Cork.
“We fashioned arrows out of garden sticks.
“We sharpened them on grind stones and we used thick elastics to make the bow so they were craic for kids, you know?
“We had so much fun with them, shooting them around.
“And unfortunately I just got in the way of one, you know?”
Some may have been left with greater psychological scars but Tadhg has no hang ups about it at all.
“It’s part of me.
“It makes me sick saying this but I’m so grateful for it.
“It’s the kind of thing you read and go, ‘Oh God, that makes me want to go and throw up’.
“But I am grateful for it. It’s part of my story.”
Tadhg has some exciting projects coming up such as The Northman that sees him part of a cast that includes Alexander Skarsgard, Nicole Kidman, Willem Dafoe, Anya Taylor- Joy and the Icelandic singer Bjork.
Directed by Robert Eggers (The Witch, The Lighthouse), The Northman tells the story of a Viking prince on a quest to avenge his father’s murder.
“That lad is such a brilliant director.
“He’s like an auteur, you know?
“The pictures are shockingly beautiful.
“They’re amazingly composed and you’re part of that picture.
“I’m so excited to see what it looks like.
Most of Tadhg’s scenes are with Alexander Skarsgard.
“I worked with his brother Gustaf so I’ve worked with two of the Skarsgards now.
“They’re such good actors. They’re so fun to work with.
“Real open, generous lads, you know?”
Again, Tadhg becomes conscious of perhaps not being a slightly boring interview subject by not being able to reveal many details of the play and then only having nice words to say about people he has worked with.
“I want to bitch about someone.
“So boring, no one wants to read about people who are sound.”
Being a Viking tale, The Northman takes Tadhg back to the world that launched him in film and TV by playing Arne is the first two series of Vikings.
“That’s when I made a transition from doing predominantly theatre.
“I started off in Vikings and that’s when I decided, ‘I’m going to stick with film and TV’.
“Because I love it and it can be tricky to get a foothold in there.
“Vikings definitely helped with opening some doors and giving me opportunities to meet people that would eventually lead to me being cast in different things.”
Tadhg will also featured in the BBC’s The English alongside Emily Blunt, Rafe Spall, Toby Jones, Ciaran Hinds, Stephen Rea and Steve Wall.
“I think it’s brilliant story. We shot it in Spain.
“I’ll tell you that one of the great things that happened with The English.
“I spent a lot of time with Steve Wall and Stephen Rea.”
The Irish World joke that Tadhg could form a band with Wall who is lead singer and guitarist with The Stunning.
“I know and have Stephen Rea as lead.
“I spent so many evenings with them, they’re brand new friendships in my life and I’m so delighted with that.
“I’m going to nurture them going forward because they’re cool people. We spent a lot of time together.
“I really enjoyed working with them and I think that’s going to be a great show.
“I’ve always wanted to be in a Western so I’m hungry to do more.
“I feel like there will be a few westerns over the next few years so I’m definitely looking to dip my toes into that again, love that world.”
And perhaps more eagerly awaited than either these is the new Sally Rooney adaptation, Conversations with Friends, that will also featured Tadhg.
“I’ve known Lenny (Abrahamson) for… I think I maybe met Lenny maybe 20 years ago.
“And I’m a fan. So we had a chat last year.
“I read the book and had a look and he asked, would I be interested in playing this part?
“And I jumped at the chance. I think Lenny’s amazing.
“Any opportunity to work with him was an immediate yes.
“And he was as extraordinary and beyond what I thought working with them.
“I’m very eager to work with him again, I think he’s just brilliant.
“I found he gave me a great sort of creative license within it with my character and it was a very enjoyable experience.
“It’s exciting. I loved it.
“I hope for everybody involved in it it does well.”
The Glow is at The Royal Court Theatre until 5 March.
For more information, click here.