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Keara Murphy’s Travellin’ Circus, The Quadrant, Brighton, May 20 to May 23
A bout of soul-searching normally follows a relationship split. But it takes a certain character to turn the introspection to comedy to share in public.
Born in Glasgow to a Scottish father and a Belfast-bred mother, it’s no surprise to hear the stage girl turned comic turned drama teacher Keara Murphy has had no problem hitting the road again after a long-term relationship ended just over a year ago.
“I knew at the age of three what I wanted to do, but it’s a bit weird it’s taken me 40 years to do it,” Keara says, slowing her raspy Glaswegian to a pace I can understand. “I knew I had to live my life and I didn’t have a choice. It’s like the Hotel California, you can check out but you never leave. You are born a performer. I tried to live a straight life and it was a lie.”
The multi-talented Glaswegian grew up in a council house as one of eight children, with an alcoholic but loving father, and attended an all-girl Catholic convent school.
She jokes her mum didn’t want to bring them up in Belfast in the 1970s because of The Troubles, so decided to move them to the safety of Glasgow, where they grew up among the razor gangs, and learned the true meaning of sectarianism.
Her dad was an optician, which may have made the family middle-class. But she is tough as well as clown, a trait that came from her father, a man who used to traverse his neighbours’ gardens immediately after breakfast with a pair of scissors to snip a flower to sit in his lapel.
“He was an alcoholic and he enjoyed a drink,” she says. “But in the East End of Glasgow you’re not an alcoholic, you’re a bon viveur. I joke there are lots of people walking around Glasgow with glasses who don’t need them, but it’s probably true.”
Despite being written as the result of a break-up, Keara’s Travellin’ Circus show is autobiographical. It traces the length and breadth of her life.
When she left her former partner she put her stuff in storage, stayed with friends, lived in guesthouses, and as such became a travelling circus, where the idea for the show came from. She eventually went back to Edinburgh with time to do what she really wanted – spend five nights a week gigging, run a comedy club – and it was then the memories flourished.
Stories from her two years living in central and Eastern Europe and Budapest where she ran a comedy club are mixed with tales of her upbringing and her first job as a housing officer in Glasgow’s Gorbals area.
“I had to police the crumbling tower blocks riddled with dampness and asbestos and God knows what else. It was a Basil Spence design and they asked people what they wanted.
“‘Front and back gardens and up and down stairs,’ they said. So they all got verandas and it ended up being a security nightmare. I’ve got quite a routine about the back stairs which was basically a Dickensian marketplace.”
*Starts 6.30pm, £5/£4. Call 01273 709709