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Friday People: we have a chat with Claire Murray

We ask personalities about the special relationships in their lives

By Kerry McKittrick

Published 29/05/2015

Blooming career: Claire Murray runs her own theatre company
Blooming career: Claire Murray runs her own theatre company
Best friends: Maggie and Elsie
Support act: John and Claire

The 36-year-old is the founder of theatre company Blunt Fringe Productions which will be bringing the musical The Last Five Years to the Lyric Theatre from June 24. She lives in Belfast with her husband John and their daughters, Maggie (3) and Elsie (2).

My husband John

John and I met at a restaurant in Dublin just before the Trinity Ball. I was at a pre-ball party and he was working there.

We fell for each other before I rushed off to the ball — with 8,000 other people in attendance. John managed to borrow a tuxedo off one of the chefs and got hold of tickets. I don’t know how he found me with so many other people there.

John’s, who is a graphic designer, supports me in everything I do, from being a mum to my work with the theatre company and my day job — I couldn’t do it without him.

My children

We waited a long time for Maggie to come along and when you have children you get a sense of how things are meant to be.

Maggie and Elsie are very close in age and they’re really good friends to each other, too.

My best friend

My oldest and best friend is Michelle Foster, we met on our first day at St Patrick’s Academy in Dungannon. We used to dance in her bedroom to an eclectic medley of music.

My other friend is Sean Green. He’s a teacher originally from Belfast, but now living in London. We met at Trinity College and have been best friends ever since.

He taught me a love of cheese and wine and is one of the most loyal people I know.

My parents

My mum Colette is a retired teacher and my dad Frank still works as a quantity surveyor. I’m the second of four children; the others are Mairead, Nan and Fra.

We’re a very close family and I left Nan and Fra behind in London when we moved back to Northern Ireland a couple of years ago.

We wanted to come home so the girls could grow up with family. Mairead has three daughters, so it’s all girls in our family.

The theatre company started as a pipe-dream, but we’re a theatrical family — Fra is an actor and my dad dabbles in amateur theatre — they’ve always been very supportive of me.

I couldn’t do it without my family and their help.

My mentors

There are two people who helped inspire me to found Blunt Fringe and have helped me every step of the way.

The first is my brother Fra, the professional actor, who will be coming over to star in The Last Five Years in the Lyric Theatre for a few weeks.

It will be our first time working together.

My second mentor is Barry McGonagle, who I met on the stage of the Grand Opera House in Belfast, when I played opposite him in a Gilbert & Sullivan operetta. He is extremely talented and performed in our very first show which was an actor-musician production of The World Goes Round.

The person I go to for advice

Behind every theatre producer and working mother is a husband who cooks the dinner and picks up the kids. 

I couldn’t do what I do without John’s support. He is also a graphic and web designer and keeps me right with all things technical.

My celebrity crush

I know Gabriel Byrne is getting on a bit now, but I love his blue eyes. I met him once when he was crossing a road and I jumped out of a car to go and talk to him.

Fantasy dinner party

My first guest would be Stephen Sondheim, the American composer and lyricist. We have just received permission to perform the Irish premiere of one of his dazzling musicals this Christmas at the Lyric and I am so excited. He could play the piano and encourage us to sing into the wee small hours.

Next I’d ask Ant and Dec as they are my favourite people on TV and I laugh out loud every time I see them. They would keep us all entertained.

I studied English at Trinity so I would have to ask Roald Dahl, although he strikes me as someone who might get a bit grumpy, but his books are so witty and entertaining. 

Perhaps I’d invite the wonderful feminist writer Fay Weldon, who sounds like she would be great fun.

  • The Last Five Years will be on stage at the Lyric Theatre from June 24 to July 4. For tickets and information go to www.lyrictheatre.co.uk

Belfast Telegraph

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