Monday, 26 January 2015

Guest Blog: Ruaraidh Murray - Big Sean, Mikey and Me

Big Sean, Mikey and Me is the story of ‘Ruaraidh’, his imaginary friend Sean Connery and his childhood pal, rough diamond Mikey and their adventures through the Edinburgh the tourist guides omit. 

Here the Casuals and the gangs of the 1980’s are prevalent to a generation’s history growing up in the Scottish capital at the time.

I first performed my one-man show Big Sean, Mikey and Me at the Gilded Balloon for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012. The Gilded Balloon then toured Scotland with myself and Big Sean, Mikey and Me in February 2013.

I call Big Sean, Mikey and Me a dark comedy with a heart. My childhood friend Mikey Anderson sadly died in September 2009. In 2011, I started to attend the playwright Stewart Permutt’s writers group at The Actors Centre in Covent Garden. Here I started to write Big Sean, Mikey and Me.

I also made the decision to finally stop drinking and taking drugs, something that I started doing from a young age in Edinburgh and which had been holding me back for years.

Having Sean Connery as my imaginary friend in the show not only provided humour and a vehicle to sell the show, but was very fitting as he was a childhood hero to both myself and Mikey. 

I progressed to my first private read through performance and then my first test performance, both at The Actors Centre. The casting director Annie Rowe came to watch and very kindly put me in touch with Paul Robinson, artistic director of Theatre 503.

I met Paul for a coffee and a chat in Clapham. This was to be another turning point in my life. Paul and I got on really well from the start; we laughed a lot. Paul recognised something in the script that resonated with him and so agreed to direct it. I will be eternally grateful to Paul for making this decision considering I was an unknown with a history of drugs and alcohol dickheadery!

From here Paul and I developed the script further and then brought the show on to the stage through rehearsals.

At the same time, through Stewart Permutt’s suggestion, I was offered to perform Big Sean, Mikey and Me at the world-renowned Gilded Balloon. Amazingly, Paul also brought on board the producer Sophie Watson, lighting designer Elliot Griggs and sound designer Philippa Herrick. 

I did my own publicity on the run-up to the festival and received tremendous support from Karen Koren, Rowan Campbell and all the Gilded Balloon press girls and Jonathan Russell at Mark Goucher Ltd.

I had my first ever preview performance of Big Sean, Mikey and Me at the Tristian Bates Theatre, receiving the four star review ‘Murray’s bravura performance…’ Metro**** before performing Edinburgh Festival Fringe. 

This was an extra special moment for me as it was the first time I’d performed in my home town during the Festival. I had great success with a sell out run and 5 star/4 star reviews.

Since Big Sean, Mikey and Me, I’ve formed a relationship with the Gilded Balloon. I’ve performed at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe with the critically acclaimed shows Bath Time (2013) and Boxman (2014), both of which also enjoyed sell-out runs and five/four star reviews. For these shows I have been lucky enough to work with the director Tim Stark.

I am returning this summer to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2015 with my latest work in progress, Allie. Different to my previous one-man shows, this full-length play will be a three-hander.

I was also very lucky to have Dame Diana Rigg come and see my show Boxman. Diana very kindly awarded me funding which has allowed me to finance putting on Big Sean, Mikey and Me at the Vault Festival. It has been fantastic to meet her and receive her wisdom and support. 

Coming full circle, Paul and I will meet up this week with my stage manager Laura Stevens at The Vaults under Waterloo station and run through Big Sean, Mikey and Me again. I’ve been re-learning the show, which has been great fun to do if not slightly surreal. Talking to myself as Sean Connery, then as my larger than life pal Mikey and then as myself is certainly one way to address any January blues.

And as before, I’m producing as well so the hustle is non-stop. Flyers and posters are out in town. Fortunately Arabella Neville-Rolfe at Target Live is dealing with my press. I just had the pleasure of being on the Cuban Brothers show at Soho Radio this afternoon, which was completely bonkers and hilarious. I love those guys! My project manager Jemma Robinson and I will do another weekend of mail-outs to get those last elusive bums on seats. The list goes on but it’s all part of the fun and games of getting to the opening night. Then it’s show time! 

Paul and I have also been working hard to finish writing the script for a feature film version of Big Sean, Mikey and Me which is about to be sent out to film producers. 

In many ways the underground venue for the Vault Festival reminds me of the Old Town back home in Edinburgh. I am really looking forward to performing Big Sean, Mikey and Me. There will be butterflies for my one-man show but with imaginary and old friends like these I won’t be standing out there on stage alone. 

Ruaraidh Murray
@ruaraidhmurray1

Big Sean, Mikey and Me runs at the Vault Festival between 4th and 8th February 2015.
Please visit www.vaultfestival.com for information and tickets.

Photo Credit: Brandon Bishop

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