Interview: Brendan Murphy – Buffy Revamped

Ever wanted to hear the story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer but from the point of view of a bleached blonde, leather coat-wearing slayer slaying Brit vampire? Well now is your chance – kind of!

Photograph by Steve Ullathorne

In Buffy: Revamped comedian Brendan Murphy will tell the whole story of all seven seasons – that’s 144 episodes – of the cult hit 90s show, all from the point of view of Spike, the coolest vamp in Sunnydale. The show, which was a follow-up to his previous one-man show FRIEND (the one with Gunther) has already been a hit at Edinburgh Fringe and picked up a number of awards, and he’s taking it out on the road – including a stop in Nottingham on February 5.

Ahead of the show we managed to grab a chat with Brendan to find out why he chose Buffy for his latest show and what makes the show such a timeless classic.

“I loved the show, and even now I still love it, with its story’s of how life as a high schooler, dealing with everything that brings, all against the backdrop of dealing with demons and monsters” 

Of course, 144 episodes – across seven seasons – is a lot of story to break down into a single stand-up stage show, so the question is how does he go about picking out the moments that can tell the show and also the essence of what Buffy the Vampire Slayer is.

“It’s quite tough, you can look at the story’s overall, and you have some big episodes like The Body and Once More with Feeling, and of course, you have the big bad, but it’s about getting the feeling of the show and especially the characters. When I wrote my first draft it was about three hours long”.

Telling the story from the point of view of a single character helps in that aspect.

“One of the reasons that I decided to tell it from the point of view of Spike is that you know what his take on things will be, he’s a well-developed character with his own arc so you can know what he would have been thinking at of things and how he would react. Though, of course, he’s not in the first season so that presented a bit of a challenge.”

Unsurprisingly, talk turns to the more recent revelations regarding series creator Joss Whedon, in particular, the comments made by Charisma Carpenter – who played Cordelia Chase on both Buffy and its spin-off Angel. While Brendan understands the shadow it casts over the show he doesn’t believe it ruins the legacy or importance.

“I think we can separate the art from the artist. Something like Buffy, at a certain point the show doesn’t really belong to the creator, it becomes the fans, and there are so many people who did such incredible work on the show, such as the cast, like Sarah Michelle Gellar who was incredible leading such a big show, we can still celebrate their work”.

It’s definitely true that Buffy had a stellar cast and some brilliant characters who went through some wonderful arcs across the lifetime of the show (I mean, come on, just look at Willow), so with such a strong choice, why Spike? Was it just the chance to dress up cool?

“There is no doubt that Spike has style, that’s for sure, but the main thing is that among the group Spike is always an outsider, so he can offer a different outlook on things, and he has a fascinating story himself throughout the show. He starts off as an enemy, then becomes part of the group, and then has a fall of grace and in the final season has his redemption.”

So as we watch Spike on stage are we hearing him tell the story as it happens and getting his development, or is this him looking back on the time?

Photograph by Steve Ullathorne

“It’s a bit of both really. We do make it clear it’s the year 2023, though we don’t really touch on anything from the time, and that Spike is recounting the story, but he is definitely doing so from the place he is at in the different parts of the story, and there is definitely a kind of wink to the audience about how he might feel about things”.

After doing FRIENDS (the one with Gunther) and now Buffy: Revamped as Spike, I had to ask whether it was pure coincidence that in both shows he’d picked the character out who happened to have bleach-blonde hair, was that just coincidence.

“That has been mentioned. The thing is with Gunther, it’s a character that is there from the very beginning but who we never really learn anything about, but Spike we have so much more background and no so much more about him, but yes some people have asked me which bleach blonde character from a show I’ll be doing next”

Apparently, my suggestion of Zach Morris was the first time anybody had thrown Saved by the Bell into the hat.

Friends was, of course, one of the biggest shows of all time, even now it is still hugely popular on streaming platforms with networks paying massive figures to have the rights to air the show, Buffy, on the other hand, is a different prospect and fills a very different place in the pop culture lexicon.

“Friends was huge, everybody knows it, even if you didn’t watch it you knew who the characters were and had probably seen a couple of episodes, Buffy was more of a cult show, but the thing is the people that did like it really liked it, and still do.”

With that in mind, I wondered how it felt stepping on stage, knowing you were giving a performance about a show everybody in the crowd loved, and whether it was intimidating.

“It can be, this show means a lot to people,  and you don’t want to look like you’re not respecting it, but I love the show and I think people can see that, they can tell when it’s coming from a place of love and respect. I’ve not had anybody complain about me getting it wrong, though I have had a couple of people come up afterward and tell me how they’d looked at certain scenes in the show differently, which was interesting”.

So here we are with a show about one of the best TV programs of all time – in this interviewer’s opinion – and told from the perspective of a character that was never even meant to stick around, in fact, as James Marsters tells it, it was the fans love of Spike that kept him in the show – much to the chagrin of Whedon. A testament to a great character and a fantastic performance.

“Yeah, James is absolutely brilliant. I would love to meet him one day, maybe I can take the show over to the US or go to a comic-con event he’s at and just chat with him about it and tell him about the show. He’s great, but then so is the whole cast. Sarah Michelle Gellar is just incredible as Buffy, such a fantastic performance in what was probably a pretty intense, fast-paced environment”. 

So, with Friends done, and now Buffy, I wondered if Brendan was planning to carry on with this style of show, and if he’d given any thought to what show and character might be next?

“Yeah, I really enjoy doing these, they give me a different way of looking at things and are good fun. I’ve been thinking about what show I could do next, I have one idea in mind but I don’t want to say too much in case somebody jumps in and steals it, but yeah, maybe next year I’ll be out there doing the next show.”

So, no details yet, so maybe, just maybe, Zach Morris will be pulling out that oversized mobile phone and claiming his dog at all his homework last night.

In the meantime, though we can enjoy the story of Buffy the Vampire Slayer courtesy of everybody’s favourite fang-bearing, super cool, cockney vamp Willam the Bloody, aka Spike.

Buffy Revamped is at the Royal Concert Hall on Sunday 5 February. Tickets are limited and are available here.

All seven seasons of Buffy the Vampire Slayer are available on Disney+ (along with the spin-off show Angel)

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