News / Culture

Magazine comes to life on stage

Part journalism, part art and part entertainment, Murphy Live is a magazine like no other

Murphy Live Magazine founder Duncan Imberger.

Mark Phillips
Friday, May 6, 2022

THE Australian premiere of a brand-new concept of journalism in front of a live audience will take place in Brunswick next week.

The first “edition” of Murphy Live Magazine – which blends journalism, theatre, music and multi-media into a single performance – will be launched at the Brunswick Ballroom on Thursday night.

The concept is the brainchild of its ‘editor-in-chief’, Brunswick entrepreneur Duncan Imberger, and is based on the successful Pop-Up Magazine in the United States.

Imberger has assembled a stellar cast of journalists and writers including Jenny Valentish, Daniel Ziffer, Tony Wilson, Jean Bachoura and Natesha Somasundaram for the first edition of Murphy.

They will be accompanied on stage by two musicians for the 90-minute, one-off show.

‘Editor-in-Chief’ Imberger, who runs Rubato Upstairs co-working space in Breese Street and has a background in corporate and broadcast production, describes Murphy as a magazine created for a stage, a screen and a live audience.

Think The New Yorker or The Monthly read out live by the actual journalists who have written the articles, and you will start to get the idea.

“Imagine your favourite general interest magazine exploding off the page and onto the stage,” Imberger says. “It’s part journalism, part art and part entertainment.”

Like many cultural projects now seeing the light of day, the idea for Murphy began during a COVID lockdown when Imberger stumbled across the San Francisco-based Pop-Up Magazine during a late-night session online.

Pop-Up began in 2014 and produces three issues a year, which it then tours to 13 different cities around the US.

“I just immediately fell for the concept, and it sparked something in me,” Imberger says. “In the spirit of finding the next big thing I decided that I wanted to launch one here.

“One of the things that appeals to me is the live element of it. My work has always been story and narrative driven but it’s also that notion of bringing people together physically and I think it taps into a real hunger at the moment for live experiences and bearing witness to other people’s stories in real time.

“That’s primal and people are craving that sort of proximity at the moment.”

“There’s a breadth of stories there. We’re trying to tap into lots of different moods to make you laugh, smile and cry, basically.”

It has taken almost two years to bring Murphy Live to stage. Imberger began with a wish list of 50 writers and will have eight on stage next week.

Each performer will debut a completely new and original piece of journalism of up to 12 minutes in length, commissioned especially for Murphy, accompanied by slides, video and music.

Subjects range from the pseudo-health industry to the origins of urban myths to Hollywood action heroes.

“The night unfolds like a magazine with a collection of original, reported stories. They are reported stories rather than personal anecdotes or creative writing pieces. It’s journalism brought to life on stage.

“There’s a breadth of stories there. We’re trying to tap into lots of different moods to make you laugh, smile and cry, basically.”

While some of the writers, such as broadcasters Ziffer and Wilson, are experienced performers, for others appearing in front of an audience is new territory.

The show will not be recorded or released online at a later date.

“Some people would say it’s madness not to record it, but I think we’re trying to create something really special on the night,” Imberger says.

“Because nothing’s recorded and you have to be there to experience it, hopefully that will create a real intimacy and excitement.

“That also gives the writers a bit of a comfort to experiment with the form and push the form a little bit.”

Imberger says Murphy has the blessings of the Pop-Up crew and he is confident it is the first live magazine to be presented in Australia. Apart from Pop-Up, his research has only discovered the concept of a live magazine in France.

Imberger says the first performance is very much a test case to prove the concept works but he has big plans to produce Murphy Live in large purpose-built theatres, similar to Pop-Up. He intends to release a second edition of the live magazine in the latter half of this year.

“Long term, I’m pretty bullish about turning this into something ongoing and sustainable that we could present three times a year and also take it on the road.”

For more information and to purchase tickets for Murphy Live, go to the website.