Double dose of ’90s TV magic on stage: An exclusive interview with Brendan Murphy

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How often does life offer the opportunity to take a seat on the iconic orange sofa from the TV show Friends, interviewing a man who one night dons a vampire’s coat of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the next night brews a coffee as Gunther from Central Perk?

Brendan Murphy, actor, writer and voice-over artist from London, arrives in Toronto with his two captivating shows, Buffy Revamped and FRIEND (The One with Gunther), providing a unique blend of entertainment. I seized the chance to explore the creative process behind these imaginative performances and chat with Brendan about his artistic journey.

Congratulations on the success of Buffy Revamped! How does it feel to have the show recognized with awards such as Best One-Person Show and Best Comedy Performance at the DarkChat Awards? (DarkChat – reviewing the Edinburgh Fringe Festival since 2008)

Brendan: “It’s always lovely to have anything that you’ve made to be recognized in that way. Those awards are from the same group that makes up the annual panel. They really support the art; it’s a nice sort of Edinburgh Fringe-centric award, so having something at the end of the road was gratifying.”

Can you share the origin story of Buffy Revamped? What inspired you to condense the entire Buffy the Vampire Slayer series into a single performance, and why tell it from Spike’s perspective?

Brendan: “When we hit the pandemic, there was a big pause for the entertainment industry – it was like a really dark world, and Buffy the Vampire Slayer was my sort of comfort rewatch. I watched it for the first time as a kid and just absolutely loved it. Spike is such an outspoken, punk-rock, charismatic character. He goes from being this sort of big bad antagonist to being a reluctant ally, eventually becoming a love interest in a hero. So, it’s a fascinating character. Revisiting it and writing it from Spike’s perspective seems obvious because he’s there throughout most of it.”

How did you approach infusing humour and satire into a show that covers all 144 episodes of the hit ’90s TV show?

Brendan: “It was a case of thinking about what would be Spike’s perspective on everything. He has so much bravado. It’s just a case of looking at all the different things in Buffy—the relationships, the other characters, his own personal journey—and applying his perspective to it. There was also the element of revisiting a show that started in the ’90s. So, what was the 2020 view of that? Surprisingly, or quite pleasingly, a lot of it stands up. Of course, it’s not the most diverse show, but it’s certainly not as bad as many other shows from that time. There are lots of brilliant things with LGBTQ+ representation in it, which is great, and we try to take a slightly more modern look at how the ’90s were portrayed in the show.”

Buffy has a dedicated fan base. How do you navigate performing for both longtime fans and those who may be new to Sunnydale High?

Brendan: “It’s tricky; I imagine that maybe 80% of the audience, or most of the people who choose to buy a ticket, will be Buffy fans—perhaps not diehard fans, but they’ll have liked watching it the first time around. However, most people will also bring someone not quite so invested in it. So, I try to keep it as open as possible. There are many references, but hopefully, all of the jokes and songs stand up for anyone who doesn’t know it. It also has that sort of nostalgia fest, so that’s a good way to think.”

Any memorable moments or interactions with the audience during Buffy Revamped performances?

Brendan: “It really varies. There is a lovely opportunity to talk to people, even on stage. It is very fast-paced, but because it’s a direct address, and there’s no fourth wall up, it’s just Spike onstage talking to people. You get people shouting out; you get people sometimes sharing funny things that just set the rest of the crowd off as well. Lots of people turn up in cosplay, which is always fun to see. So yeah, it’s sort of different every show.”

Moving on to FRIEND, it’s impressive how you’ve tackled both Buffy Revamped and FRIEND. How do you transition between such different shows, and what motivates you to take on such diverse projects?

Brendan: “Well, I mean, they are two of my favourite TV shows, and they’re both very different. They came out at the same time, of course, and exist within the same kind of world. In fact, there are a few crossovers between the TV shows. Buffy is referenced in Friends, and they referenced so many other things that were on at the same time.

In terms of transitioning between the roles, I think FRIEND is a little bit softer from Gunther’s point of view. So that’s quite a nice change sometimes. And I need to always take off my black nail polish and then do my hair slightly differently (laughing).”

FRIEND has been a huge success, winning Best Play at the World Wide Comedy Awards. Can you share the journey of creating a play that resonated globally and became a hit at the Edinburgh Fringe?

Brendan: “The show FRIENDS has such mass appeal, and it’s really connected with people in a lot of ways. Between the two shows, Buffy probably has a deeper love from its core fans, but you rarely meet someone who hasn’t watched Friends. It’s linked to so many memories and emotions. It’s something you watch if you’ve just been through a breakup, or, for me, it was when I was on the road. So, I was on tour, and it was just a nice, fun thing to watch. It feels like home; those characters feel like family. I thought that would be really good source material to make a show.

And then, taking it up to Edinburgh was so much fun, a chance to try it out. I had a really lovely response. We managed to take it on as an international tour, which was great to see which things resonated and which jokes we had to change.”

What are the comedic potentials and challenges of embodying a character so well-known (Gunther) in a one-man show?

Brendan: “The risk is that people, first of all, are worried that you will make fun of something or someone they love. It’s not an impression show. The same goes for Buffy. I’m not doing a particularly nuanced impression. It’s just a version, a different take on Spike. It’s a different version of Gunther. 

So, yeah, the risk is that people might be a bit hesitant to come along or they might think, ‘Oh, well, he’s not the real Gunther. But he’s not the real Spike.’ However, the benefits of doing it are that people come with so much love for the character. They’re invested from the start; they know that they love Friends, they know that they love Buffy, so they come in looking for a good time. That creates a really nice atmosphere.”

Toronto is known for its diverse cultural scene. What factors influenced your decision to bring Buffy Revamped and FRIEND to Toronto?

Brendan: “I love Toronto. I’ve been here twice before with shows in the past. I spent one Christmas here. Yet, we had a conversation with the producers out here, the people who run Lighthouse Immersive. They opened this theater. It just so happens we’d had both Buffy and Friends up at the Edinburgh Fringe, and they were in good shape. So we thought, hey, let’s bring them over here, both at the same time. Yeah, why not? It’s quite interesting. I mean, it’s going to be an interesting few weeks, with eight shows a week for Buffy and Friends. I’ll do my vocal exercises, try not to be exhausted, and stay fit and healthy so we can power through them all.”

Can you share any unique aspects of working with Lighthouse Immersive that stand out in the context of your performances?

Brendan: “Everyone has been really supportive, really nice, and kind. They all seem to be fans of both Friends and Buffy, which helps. Being in a location, a venue that is already established in Toronto, hopefully, will mean that people will take a chance on a show that they hadn’t heard of before.”

Are there any upcoming projects or collaborations you’re excited about?

Brendan: “At the moment, I’m just focusing on these two. For the rest of this year, it’s just Spike and Gunther. But next year, we’ll see. I’m hoping I’ll get some writing done while I’m here and let people know when it’s time.”

Experience the magic of Brendan Murphy’s one-man shows, Buffy Revamped and FRIEND (The One with Gunther), at Lighthouse Artspace Toronto until the end of December. Returning to your favourite TV shows from the ’90s, take a nostalgic trip and immerse yourself in the extraordinary, fast-paced performances. Don’t miss this chance to relive the charm of iconic characters in a unique and entertaining setting.


Maria Rostecka picture
Maria Rostecka

Author: Maria Rostecka, Content Specialist for The Onside Media, Canada. She is based in Toronto, Ontario. If you have any stories to share, please feel free to reach out: maria.rostecka@theonside.com

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