An interview with SHINING CITY movement director, Jack Murphy. Jack's extensive credits include: Three Sisters, Treasure Island, 3 Winters (National Theatre), Mary Stuart (Almeida), Angus, Thongs and Perfect Snogging, Brighton Rock, and the Netflix smash-hit Bridgerton.
Hiya, Jack! Tell us, what is a movement director?
Our personalities are indicated by the shape of our bodies and the way that we stand, sit walk. Our movements and their motivations stem from physical, emotional, and mental sources. Our minds and feelings are informed by physical experience. Thoughts trigger emotions and actions. We sense our bodies, and we are aware of its energy. The outline of the body is the shape of its inner contents. Movement starts with an impulse and not for movements’ sake. The actor transforms their body into many bodies but always moves out of need. The role of the movement teacher is to free this process. To assist the actor in bringing the body to a state of readiness; to be aware of its weight, rhythm, and breath. It is through the practice of movement that we open up the possibility of information flowing freely from the inside-out and the outside-in. This state enables the actor to give way to the imagination.
What was your route into becoming a movement director and working in the arts?
I trained as an actor at LAMDA 1985-1988 and graduated with the Alec Clunes Memorial Prize. I immediately worked in theatre as an actor (Theatre Royal Stratford East, Mercury Theatre, Colchester and the Royal National Theatre.) While performing in The Mountain Giants at the NT I was invited to become the assistant to the Head of Movement to re-train as a Director of Movement, Movement Teacher and Choreographer. This consisted of a major re-study programme with Jane Gibson (Head of Movement NT) Trish Arnold (Head of Movement GSMD) and The Royal Academy of Dance (Historical Branch).
How has movement been incorporated into SHINING CITY?
Movement is emanation of thought and actor's release thoughts. I encourage actors to connect these thoughts to the physicality of the thought (what is the meaning of the move) or action so that we get a corporeal presence. Movement is incorporated into Shining City as in any play, by the virtue of the actor walking into an empty space, and to walk into a space is locomotion and we learn just as much about a character from their walk, from their tempo of walk, from their rhythm of walk as we do about their speech.
So, my job has is very much to look at the physical potential of any given moment on every single page in collaboration with the writer, the director, and the actor. The actors spent quite a bit of time in the first two weeks working on releasing the body, and we do this by the physical activity of swing, where we experience gravity levity and suspension - suspension is potential energy. Connecting that to the breath, the inspiration, so that we can allow the tempo and the rhythm of the text to become free in that given moment.
We looked at the themes of the play: loneliness, guilt, and shame - I brought images of these emotions to the rehearsal room to be incorporated with music in order to release the imagination of the actors, they worked freely with great imagination, and this helped us to discover the style of the piece. Style is the aesthetics of action, and the action of Shining City is very naturalistic on the page but once you start to take the play into the space it becomes clear that there's a level of energy and focus that is greater than naturalism. The stakes are always high creating a dramatic level of energy.
My work for Shining City has also incorporated intimacy between two characters and this now involves being very clear with setting up a safe room whereby actors and directors in the production company know the boundaries that which they can work in and feel comfortable to realise challenging and revealing sensitive scenes.
What do you love about your job?
What I love most about my job is that no two days are ever the same. I love the transitory nature of theatre – it’s like working in the circus, each week a different town!
What advice would you give to someone wanting to get into choreography/movement direction?
It’s a difficult one but the most honest advice I can give you is to realise it’s never about you. You are an enabler, it’s about what is required and not your capabilities. Essentially you are there to realise the vision of others, to be a servant.
What’s your earliest theatre memory?
I can remember going to the Victoria Palace with my mother and my grandparents in 1974 and falling in love with whole spectacle – I was 12 years of age.
If you didn’t work in the arts, what would you be doing?
If I didn’t work in the arts, I think I would work in the world of sport.
TV Show: Schitt’s Creek and of course Bridgerton!
Film: My Beautiful Laundrette
Play: The Normal Heart
Album: Older by George Michael
Book: Maurice by E. M. Forster