by Katie Isham.
This Friday night, as the sun sets, a peroxide blonde in a sweeping leather duster will take to the stage at MAST Southampton. Brendan Murphy is the living embodiment of Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. In his new show, Buffy ReVamped, he takes the audience along for the ride on his metaphorical motorbike to revisit all seven seasons of the hit show.
Brendan dropped the act long enough to have a chat this week about problematic vampires, lockdown creativity and blonde upkeep.
Full disclosure, this is a show for fans of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. If you love Buffy, you’ll adore this. It’s a full-throttle whirlwind trek back to the late 90s. Those of us who were there at the time will be overwhelmed with longing for a lost youth and for a locker to pin posters in. It’s also true that the TV series of Buffy has weathered the tides of time and garnered continuing affection: into every generation, a swathe of Buffy fans is born.
This is something Brendan has at the forefront of his mind in every performance. He’s sinking his teeth into this project of affection.
“This is made by fans for the fans,” he asserts as we talk, “with parody, you have to be careful; it’s a loving, playful poke at a beloved show,” which is obvious when you realise the detail set into the construction of this multi-role character comedy. Brendan and his director Hamish MacDougall are clearly Buffy aficionados and are definitely, “taking care of it,” for us die-hard fans.
In fact, the show stemmed from Brendan’s comfort rewatch during the Covid era. Like many of us, he braved the lockdown binging boxsets. The difference is that whilst we partnered our viewing with baking and eating banana bread, he was more productive, making notes and scribbling jokes as he watched.
Once edited (although the three-hour version surely deserves rescuing from the crypt) and punctuated by ingenious musical numbers to sweep the many plots along, he created a slick, hilarious, nostalgic love letter to the Scooby gang, worthy of any Willow-sparked magic.
All the main characters are brought to life by Brendan’s movements, mannerisms and a whole host of familiar props. Most of the show is told by the punk-rock Spike so it’s streaked with his views and opinions. Even fan-favourite Drusilla turns up for some eye-rolling eccentricity. Fittingly, Spike’s rival, the brooding Angel, is banished to brief arm movement in a leather jacket, but it’s executed so cleverly it’s like the spiky haired hero is in the room.
But Brendan’s favourite is obviously our blondie bear. “Spike’s so much fun, especially with the direct address to the audience,” he says.
And it’s clear to see how much he loves this character. There’s a repartee with us as an audience of Buffy fans that makes it feel like we’re all there to join the gang.
Brendan puts his heart and gallons of sweat into the show (mind out if you’re in the front row) and even we as an audience feel like we’ve been through it by the end of a very swift seventy minutes. It’s a high-octane performance but the man on stage loves every second as much as we do.
“It’s so fun as a show to do. It’s not a burden,” he laughs as he plans the next caffeine hit before the curtain rises.
The television show has fared well over the years and the overarching message of fighting your demons, be they blood-sucking monsters or less mystical threats, is as relevant today, if not more so. We talked about the looming shadow of its creator but Brendan believes that the show has broken free of those shackles.
“It’s tricky to separate the art from the artist,” he muses, “but I genuinely think Buffy belongs to the fans now. When you make art, you give it to the people.”
And Brendan is giving us his art through this show. He’s devised and/or performed similar shows based on recaps of Harry Potter and Friends so he knows what he’s doing with a super-summary. You don’t need to know everything about Buffy to enjoy this, but it may be as decipherable as the Latin books in Giles’ library if you arrive with no knowledge.
As a Buffy fan, you’re part of a family. Brendan recognises that a programme previously dismissed as a teen drama reaches people far beyond its premise, stating that he’s careful of its treatment as the show is, “part of their identity,” so he’s created “a loving, fun show” reflecting that.
Buffy is about empowerment and finding your place in the world. I’m still amazed, and obviously delighted, that this twenty-five-year-old television show is still inspiring people to be strong and opening opportunities for conversation about choice and finding your tribe.
I found mine when I settled down in an audience of Buffy ReVamped. I looked about and saw the same nervous excitement in the black-kohled eyes around me, but by the end, as we wiped away tears, struggled to catch up with the speed of jokes flying around and our faces ached from smiling, I knew we were all in it together.
The show at MAST on Friday is sold out but try to catch it elsewhere or when it returns to Southampton on November 3. After a tour further afield in Australia recently, Brendan’s touring more of the UK as well as returning for another stint at the Edinburgh Fringe this year.
“As long as people come to see the show, we’ll keep putting it on.”
Can stand up, will stand up, for a standing ovation at least, for our favourite problematic vampire in the bloody brilliant Buffy ReVamped.
- for more details, visit: buffyrevamped.co.uk
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