We just wanted to let you know what’s been happening and what’s coming up for us.
Hope to see you soon in a theatre somewhere.
Stay warm, enjoy the longer days and fuck the patriarchy.
Lor & Nicole
We are so excited to announce that A Spectacle of Herself is going to be presented as part of @batterseaartscentre ‘s Spring program!!!
April 23-27th 2024!
‘A Spectacle of Herself navigates the personal and political to seek out new worlds and ways to be seen.’
Click the link for tickets through @batterseaartscentre’s website.
*All shows are captioned*
London we can’t wait to see you !!
Xx ❤️🔥 xx
Writing from the Body: Devising Text and Movement.
A two-part workshop exploring autobiographical writing and circus choreography with Laura Murphy
Dates: Saturday 14th & Sunday 15th October 2023
Times: Saturday - 10am-4pm. Sunday - 10am-2pm
Location: Saturday - Arnolfini.
Sunday - The Island Training Space
Cost: Early Bird £90 or £100 full price for both days. There are two subsidised £50 places available on a first come first served basis for anyone who needs it. Please contact email@example.com
Follow this link for tickets: select Saturday 14th October 2023 in Ticket Selection for full weekend tickets.
Laura Murphy will offer an insight into the making process underpinning their unique performance practice, which connects and combines autobiographical writing with aerial choreography, lip syncing and movement. Laura is internationally recognised for their innovative approach to circus making, aerial choreography and contemporary performance. Their practice centres the politics of the everyday, the importance of having a voice and telling stories to (un) F**k the system!
Starting with the body and autobiographical experience as impetus for writing and devising performance work, this two-part workshop will explore strategies for generating and working with text, devising physical material from text, delving into creative and critical conversations and also giving participants an insight into Laura’s work. Participants will be guided through creative writing exercises and devising skills to generate material, and unlock new directions in their approach to making work.
Day 1: Getting to know you, Laura’s work, writing practices, generating material (writing workshop)
Day 2: Devising from writing (physical devising workshop)
Suitable for professional circus artists and physical practitioners, and advanced students. Prerequisite: aerial artists must be proficient in their discipline and own safety requirements.
Content warning: video material shown in the workshop may contain nudity, swearing and references to sexual violence
We’re over the moon that Laura Murphy’s A Spectacle of Herself has been awarded the Lustrum Award for outstanding work in theatre at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe.
Awarded by the owner of Summerhall, Robert McDowell, the award is given to the favourite company and show of the Summerhall programme.
Join us on tour! A Spectacle of Herself tours around the UK this Autumn to:
Derby Festé - Déda 21st September
Circus City, Bristol 6th & 7th October
Jacksons Lane, London 1st November
Cambridge Junction 9th November
Lowry, Salford 28th November
Laura Murphy, Contra and Carré Magique present the stunning “A Spectacle of Herself” at Summerhall. Directed with assurance by the great Ursula Martinez and performed by savvy Laura Murphy herself this is an audacious sequence of scenes exploring the frontiers of mental health, queerness, rage and the 21st Century space race. All of which off an alternate vision of being a woman in the world and on stage.
Laura Murphy is a genre-defying queer performance maker from Bristol, who makes text-driven and dynamic physical performance about things that she thinks needs to be talked about. Challenging, intimate and spectacular, her work is a cross-disciplinary fusion of theatre, live art, circus, and verbal explosion.
Technology is both form and content and Murphy’s video project work throughout the show is both innovative, accessible, and artful. When it starts it does feel like we are in for some critical theory and that the show “may be good for us”. But fear not, autobiography collides with creative practice to create a gym for the mind and a feast for the eyes. The aerial work is stunning and the resonant images and journey from the opening images of a fully clothed body to that of the closing images of the naked body are potent.
Lived experience of autism, everyday sexism, violence, and abuse pepper the content. The lone male genius gets a poke. Using direct address, lip synch and karaoke, the work navigates the personal and political, to seek out new worlds and ways to be seen and question the status quo. To be honest, the karaoke scene didn’t work for me – I just didn’t get it but I do love Whitney Houston. The final message is “Fuck the Patriarchy.” This is not the kind of show you take mum and dad to on a Saturday night (maybe you should) but it goes a long way to filling the void between easily digestible mainstream feminist fare and powerful, empowering, and provocative work. It’s the kind of thing that stays with you.
It's a super short premiere season in Edinburgh. I predict you will catch it on the festival circuit around the world.
Read the full review
Laura Murphy's one-person show is a kaleidoscopic mix of clowning, aerial rope, comedy and self-expression that manages to be direct and abstract all at once.
Laura Murphy's new one-person show, A Spectacle of Herself, is a wildly funny and deeply touching act of self-expression. Aerial rope, video projections, inventive captions, and a hoverboard come together to make a witty commentary that never feels too obvious or heavy-handed. Murphy's connection with the audience is easy and honest; it feels like a safe place to laugh.
The piece features all of the things I love the most: gender business, autism, horniness, clowns, and performance art that is brilliant in its stupidity. It's actually very reassuring to find that this extremely niche intersection is not at all a lonely place to be – in fact, horny, gay, trans, performance art clowns have appeared in this very magazine several times this month already. Exploring the mechanics of desire and consumption on her own body, Murphy performs a dazzling series of stunts, skits, tricks, and other unnameable weirdnesses.
The piece partially orbits a formative 90s TV advert in which heightened performances of gender provided a peek into euphoria for young Murphy. Murphy's account of first seeing the commercial is so direct, so evocative, that it feels like looking through a tiny porthole into her weird, wonderful brain. We get a glimpse of the euphoria this advert gives her; Murphy makes astounding shapes with her body and the aerial rope, turning gender euphoria into a death-defying stunt.
Murphy's script achieves a remarkable balance between direct and abstract, plain and inscrutable. It is a collection of personal stories and moments that express identity without commodifying it – the saliences in the piece aren't necessarily linked to being queer, trans, autistic, etc (for me, they are, of course); they speak to the experience of feeling different, of feeling behind, and of feeling lost at the end of the world.
Read the full review
In A Spectacle Of Herself Laura Murphy slides the serious and the silly up against each other as she successfully weaves the philosophical, the personal and the political together into the mess they truly are.
Murphy is a charismatic performer drawing from clowning, parody, the world of Drag Kings, alongside aerial work and academic meditations of feminism, queerness, mental health, identity and neurodivergence. Whilst adding a sprinkling of horninesss levels matched by Fleabag, with a righteous celebration of the word cunt, echoing The Vagina Monologues.
The sections of aerial work are moments of true transcendence. These are captivating and charming, providing flashes of queer euphoria breaking through the backdrop of panic attacks, overstimulation and righteous rage against the world we live in.
Murphy has no time for people perceived as famous smart men, either in history or today featuring her parodies of Einstein and cunting Elon cunting Musk. Musk being particularly wince inducing. Providing an alternative to Musk’s idea of space, a space shaped inescapably by capitalism, masculinity and the patriarchy. Murphy provides a reclaimed erotic love for space, performed with tenderness.
The pacing of the piece is sadly a bit sporadic, at points I felt like I was waiting for a song to end rather than still enjoying the joke. To avoid spoilers I shall be vague but there was a point in the piece that rushed us towards a precipice and I was craving the jump and destruction and I felt I didn’t get it. This piece had the longest wait on a joke, for payoff that I have seen in a while and it was fantastic.
The performance has been carefully crafted, and the work to provide AV and captioning for almost all of Murphy’s speech should be commended. It is a serious leap for general accessibility.
Despite the academic trappings the piece's real clarion call is for us to get out of our anxious, rage-filled, heads for a bit and just be a body, to rave - despite the world around us.
Read the full review
★★★★ ‘a powerful and empowering piece of work’ The Scotsman
Comprising a series of unconventional and interconnected fragments, A Spectacle of Herself is at once daring, dynamic, and disruptive. Characterised by an innovative approach to, and engagement with, technology - particularly video projection - Laura Murphy uses both the solar system and systems of power as lenses through which to celebrate queerness and to consider new ways of being a woman in the world and on stage.
Using elements of autobiography, Murphy draws from the day-to-day dangers she faces as a consequence of her sex and sexuality (physical violence, verbal abuse, repression), in addition to her lived experience of autism. Pushing against - and sometimes parodying - 'pioneering male thinkers’ past and present, Murphy combines critical theory and creative practice to create a kind of cerebral circus. Blending physical theatre, clowning, and stunning displays of aerial rope, each vignette verges on wildness, and yet - under Ursula Martinez’s careful direction - the action is deftly controlled.
There are exceptions throughout (notably, a moment of weird karaoke), outliers that, while charming, remain strange, even estranged from the rest of the performance as it accrues and takes shape. Short silences between scenes - not unlike ‘rests’ in a piece of sheet music - are also odd at first, risking room for disengagement, but cumulatively these spaces gather gravity and meaning.
Its political savvy, seen together with themes of physical and emotional nakedness, makes A Spectacle of Herself incredibly sexy. As Murphy invites her audience to queer the status quo, unlearn Patriarchy, and destigmatise the female form, she does so with great sway and sophistication, resulting in a powerful and empowering piece of work.
Read the full review
Laura Murphy - A Spectacle of Herself
Contemporary performance maker and circus artist Laura Murphy returns to Summerhall for the Fringe with a new creation fusing aerial rope, theatre and creative captioning.
Written and performed by Laura Murphy and Directed by Ursula Martinez. A co-production with Contra, Carré Magique & Cambridge Junction, Recipient of Summerhall’s Mary Dick Award 2023.
Join Laura on a mission to serve herself up (in)appropriately for your consumption, in a bold, cinematic, acrobatic odyssey through the frontiers of mental health, queerness, rage and the 21st Century space race.
Directed by Ursula Martinez, with Laura’s critical and cheeky signature mix of autobiography, lip-sync, video and aerial rope, A Spectacle of Herself navigates the personal and political, to seek out new worlds and ways to be seen.
Praise for Contra at Summerhall 2019
‘Blistering’ ★★★★ (Fest). ’A complex new form of solo-theatre’ (Scotsman).
‘Murphy’s ability as a circus performer is mesmerising' ★★★★ (TheWeeReview.com).
Laura Murphy comments: "A Spectacle of Herself is a show about what it means to occupy space and the way in which different spaces transform how we are seen. As Kae Tempest recently described it, exceptional behaviour can make you a target, but in another context it can make you safe. My experience of theatre is a reflection of this, as it’s a space where my difference and the behaviours and characteristics I mask in daily life, are accepted and enjoyed. So for me the often outsider identity of the circus performer extends beyond acrobatics, into performances of human emotion, neurodivergence and gender queerness, experiences and expressions that in many spaces still don’t feel acceptable.
As an artist and writer I often explore personal autobiographical experiences in contrast to and in relationship with broader social narratives. Political events over the last three years have particularly led me to question myself, my identity and the place that I and others occupy in the world. With A Spectacle of Herself, I wanted to explore the link between mental health and personal identity, in tandem with these bigger scale political expressions of space-taking, including the "space race" led by billionaires to colonise Mars and the global climate disaster we are witnessing. Patriarchy and objectification are central themes in this work, given the way that space is often policed, organised and monopolised“
A Spectacle of Herself builds on the momentum from Laura’s debut show Contra, which interrogated personal, social and historical occupations of the female body and was a cult hit at Summerhall in 2019 earning a Total Theatre award nomination. The show went on to tour to 11 countries with subtitles in three languages, building enduring relationships between the company and the wider European circus sector.
A Spectacle of Herself is a co-production with inclusive, interdisciplinary arts centre Cambridge Junction and Carré Magique, a Pôle National Cirque, one of a network of national organisations supporting a leading circus sector in France.
Cambridge Junction CEO Matt Burman comments: “Cambridge Junction is delighted to be supporting Laura’s work and the making of her new show A Spectacle of Herself. I’ve had the privilege of seeing work-in-progress and the show promises to be smart, funny, very real, politically on the money, and a brilliant balance of eloquently crafted contemporary performance and deftly integrated and highly skilled aerial work. Fringe audiences are going to love A Spectacle of Herself”
A Spectacle of Herself has integrated creative captioning designed by video and caption designer Ben Glover, supporting D/deaf and hearing impaired audiences to access the performances. The show is this years recipient of the Mary Dick Award which offers a supported run as part of Summerhall’s 2023 Fringe programme for a d/Deaf or disabled artist or d/Deaf or disabled-led company, combined with mentoring and support from acclaimed disabled-led company Birds of Paradise to make the work accessible for audiences.
Tom Forster, Summerhall Fringe Producer says “Having hosted Contra as part of Festival 2019 their work quickly gained a strong reputation as an artist to watch and left our audiences wanting much more. Contra was considered amongst audiences, press and staff to be a cult hit, which was a remarkable achievement given its short two week long run. Our programme for 2023 would struggle to make sense without groundbreaking circus work such as this returning to continue where it left off”
Laura Murphy is a genre defying queer and neurodivergent performance maker from Bristol. Her work is cross-disciplinary fusion of theatre, live art, aerial choreography, dance and verbal explosions, which integrate intimacy and spectacle. She is a circusnext laureate and gained a total theatre award nomination for her first solo show Contra in 2019. She is known for her innovative approach to circus performance and has recently collaborated with Scottee, Peaches, Terry O’Connor & Dickie Beau. She holds a PhD investigating aerial work’s potential as a critically engaged practice and its use as a vehicle for social and political propaganda and has taught practice as research at international circus institutions including Circomedia, the National Centre for Circus Arts & Stockholm University of the Arts.
Ursula Martinez is a theatre maker, writer, performer and director. She co-directed the award-winning Office Party, and directed Victoria Melody’s Northern Soul, Leah Shelton’s Bitch on Heat and Lucy McCormick’s Triple Threat. She is an original cast member of the Olivier Award winning contemporary circus/variety phenomena La Clique and La Soiree, and is an associate artist with performance provocateurs ‘Duckie’. Martinez’s solo shows include A Family Outing, My Stories, Your Emails, and Free Admission, in addition to Wild Bore an international collaboration with Adrienne Truscott (US) and Zoe Coombs Marr (Australia). For all her theatrical accolades, Matinez is probably most well known for pulling red hankies out of her vagina!
Ben Glover is a deaf video designer who uses interdisciplinary skills in both creative and technical fields producing innovative and often expressive creations typically informed by his background in theatre and computing. He has developed a particular interest in work that explores contemporary issues and more personal topics such as his deafness. His recent work includes video designs for; Mee & The Band (Eventim Apollo), Hear My Soul Speak (RADA), Americana! (Hellenic Centre). He has previously received the Mead Fellowship award for his Virtual Reality project Simple Misunderstanding.
Contra Productions is a collaboration between creative producer Nicole A’Court-Stuart and performance maker Laura Murphy. We make, tour & support the development of politically engaged, interdisciplinary, & boundary pushing Circus work. Our practice is informed by our queer and neurodivergent leadership, as well as our shared passion for exploring the critical role virtuosic practices can have within live work
Summerhall Main Hall, 2nd-13th August (not 7th) 12:55 pm - 1:55 pm
Performer & Writer Laura Murphy
Director Ursula Martinez
Producer Nicole A’Court-Stuart
Lighting Designer Jen Roxburgh
Video Designer Ben Glover
Film maker Holly Black
Production Manager Dean Sudron
Devising Projection Designer Mark Morreau
Access Consultant Max Sutherland
Lip Sync Supervisor Dickie Beau
Co-produced by Contra Productions, Carré Magique Pôle national cirque en Bretagne & Cambridge Junction
Supported by Jacksons Lane Theatre, La Verrerie d’ales, La Grainerie Pôle Européen de production, Cologne Circus Dance Festival & The Invisible Circus Launchpad Scheme.
Funded by Arts Council England, Jerwood Arts
National Centre for Circus Arts
Links & Socials
Research Trailer, Black Bark Films 2022: https://vimeo.com/6723096