Welcome to Ballyturk: darkness, stress and a joker in the pack

Enda Walsh’s intense new play brings together an all-star cast of Cillian Murphy, Stephen Rea and Mikel Murfi. Are they looking forward to being put under ‘tremendous strain’ by Walsh?

From left, Mikel Murfi, Enda Walsh , Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

From left, Mikel Murfi, Enda Walsh , Cillian Murphy and Stephen Rea. Photograph: Cyril Byrne

Tue, Jul 1, 2014, 01:00

A new play by Enda Walsh is bound to cause a stir on the Irish arts scene. The play, which stars Stephen Rea, Cillian Murphy and Mikel Murfi, is an exciting prospect. And a new play by Walsh whose run at this summer’s Galway International Arts Festival sold out before the festival programme was even launched, well, that’s a bit of a phenomenon.

So it is intriguing, to say the least, to be sitting at a table with Walsh and the cast of Ballyturk, who have taken a break after two weeks of rehearsal in London to do some publicity in Dublin.

It’s quite a quartet. The Sligo-born actor Mikel Murfi is touring Ireland with the one-man show he wrote himself, The Man in the Woman’s Shoes. Cillian Murphy’s movie career has taken him into serious A-list territory: Inception, Batman Begins, 28 Days Later and The Wind that Shakes the Barley as well as a fistful of award-winning independent roles. Walsh, who won a Tony Award for his book for the musical Once, is making major waves in the international theatrical world.

Then there’s Stephen Rea, who you might have heard of. The founder member, with Brian Friel, of Field Day has been collaborating with the American playwright and director Sam Shepard on a regular basis. He worked with another Sam – Beckett – on Endgame. As for his movie credentials, how about The Crying Game, The Butcher Boy, The Company of Wolves, The Devil and the Deep Blue Sea, The End of the Affair – and that’s just the movies beginning with “The”.

Two years ago, Cillian Murphy’s performance in Walsh’s one-man play Misterman was a sensation at Galway Arts Festival. It won him an Irish Times award for best actor, as well as a Drama Desk Award when the play transferred to St Ann’s Warehouse in New York.

“It was one of the most fulfilling and satisfying times I’ve ever had,” says Murphy, who has just finished shooting the second series of the BBC drama Peaky Blinders – and has the haircut to prove it. “I’ve always loved theatre and I’ll always come back to it.”



Character studies

Misterman required Murphy to portray, not just the obsessive, unhinged Thomas Magill, but all the other characters he encountered – from a flirty waitress to a foul-mouthed garage man – as he went about his work of trying to convert the townspeople of Inishfree to God.

Working on Ballyturk as part of a trio must be very different? “It’s totally different. Every show is always different,” he says. “It’s nice to be sharing a stage with two brilliant actors. That’s always a nice thing.”

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