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Getting to know: Rachel McMurray

February 9, 2017

 

Who am I?

 

For the purpose of this blog, I am aware that this question was pinned as an introductory point. A chance for me to give readers a bit of my professional background, particularly related to theatre. However I feel learning about my professional background doesn't give a good sense of who I actually am as a person. So bare with me while I give a more rounded summary of Rachel McMurray.

The first way I'd describe myself is as a bit of a nomad. I was born in the States, and lived in eight different countries before the age of ten. No, my family is not in the military. My parents work in international education. I'm not sure if it was from the constant moving or something innate but I was a painfully shy child. I had my first sleepover at the age of ten, and even then insisted my mum came to pick me up at one in the morning. Without giving you all the details of my development as a person, it was essentially theatre and performing that helped me overcome that shyness.

At ten I moved to Switzerland where I met my fellow Fine Comber Catherine Morefield. We performed together throughout school, most notably in our High School production of High School Musical, riveting stuff.

At 18 I decided to move to Sunny Salford to complete a BA (Hons) in Performing Arts. Cat and I have never quite figured out how exactly we both ended up on the same course, living in halls next to each other. But safe to say I was glad we did as we carried on performing together through University.

While in my third year at University I was hired to perform in Strangeways prison. I played a homophobic male prisoner who beats up his cell mate when he found out he was gay. Safe to say, the character could not be more opposite than my actual self! While there I met a prisoner who was serving a life sentence. He had arrived at the prison with some extreme anger management issues. He told me the story of how a prison guard threw matchsticks and glue into his cell and told him to 'do something with these'. He told me that he began making matchstick models. First he tried to make a knife and a gun but when he figured out they weren't working, he began making models of motorbikes. When I met him he told me he had gotten to the point of selling them on eBay and  gave the money to his daughter on the outside.

It was after this experience that I knew I wanted to tell his story. There was such an important conversation to be had about the potential of art and I wanted to stimulate this conversation. It was here that Cat and I created Fine Comb Theatre. We wanted to stimulate conversation about real experiences through the vehicle of theatre.

So although I could bore you with the facts and figures of my career following this, I didn't want to present you with my CV. Instead I hope to have given you a little insight into how it all started and maybe it will give you a sense of who I am.

I am passionate about theatre for social change, adamant that if there is the capacity to do good in the world then it should be done; strangely fascinated by psychology, sociology and criminology, and determined to prove to society that I don't have to conform to what they expect of me. I will live how I want to and no, I do not want to work nine to five.

On that slightly heavy note. Here are a few lighter questions.

Strangest role I have ever had?
Tumbleweed. I dressed in all black. And did roly-polies from one side of the stage to the other while people off stage made wind noises. That may have been one of the few times I strongly questioned my career choice.

Favourite role I have ever had?
As odd as it sounds, my prison role as the homophobic prisoner was one of my favourite. This was purely due to the challenging nature of it. During this production I was hot-seated by the prisoners we performed to so my character had to be solid. As you can imagine, prisoners are not the most forgiving audience. They will absolutely call it as it is.

First thing I think about when I wake up?
That I need a wee. And then that I can't be bothered getting up to wee. I'm hardly the most philosophical first thing in the morning.

One thing I have learnt form Fine Comb?
Selling yourself on paper is a hell of a lot harder than it seems. Just because you are passionate about a project or a script does not mean that someone reading the summarised form of it will grasp that.

One thing I love about my job?
Being self-employed. I love that every single week in my diary looks completely different. No week is the same. It keeps life extremely interesting when routine never actually sets in.

One thing I find hard about my job?
....Being self-employed. As much as I love the freedom and flexibility, the lack of stability makes things slightly more complicated. Grown up things such as saving, mortgages, loans, sick pay, holiday pay, taxes. All these things get slightly more complicated when you are self-employed.

If I could give my younger self a piece of advice, what would it be?
Ignore what people are telling you is supposed to happen when you grow up. You can live life any way you want to. There is no formula to a successful life. Living it the way you want to, without pressure from society is a successful life.

 

 

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