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Back page interview: Steve Murray, mime evangelist

01 December 2009

. . .

That’s the corniest joke ever. . . I do talk, you know.

I trained in Los Angeles with a Christian mime company called Mimestry. There are other schools — some in London, a few in Paris, others round the world — but this was a Christian school and Bible col­lege, and the owner, Todd Farley, gave me a scholarship. I haven’t had any drama training, apart from what I did at school.

I never planned to become a mime artist. It really came from God. One of the pastors at my church had a wife who prayed for me. One day, in 1993, she told me she was praying and God gave her a picture of me with a white face. I didn’t have a clue what that meant — I’d never liked clowns. But then, later, someone said: “You’ve got to come round to my house: I want to show you a video of something,” and it was Todd Farley. It was so powerful it made me cry, and I had a word from God: “This is what you’ve got to do.” Some time after that, a letter arrived from Todd Farley at my church, adver­t-ising his tour of Europe, and that was like three confirmations for me. All the doors opened up from there.

It could only be of God: there is no way I could have made that hap­pen. I was unemployed at the time. My church supported me to go and study in America in 1995, and I was there for two years. I had a good time. Lovely weather. Very intense. Bible college as well as mime school. I have very, very fond memories.

I became a Christian round about 1991, in my mid-20s. I just went along to a church service to see a friend being baptised, and I really en­joyed the service. It was very power­ful — not like the Anglican school services I was used to. I thought I was Chris­tian because I lived in Britain, but I didn’t realise it meant commit­ment.

I was brought up with Elvis. He sang songs I really enjoyed, and, in this Pentecostal church, they sang songs like Elvis sang. At the end, someone gave me a hug and I had never been hugged like that before. I’d never had a loving father in my life. It felt very special. I kept going back, and, within a few weeks, I had given my life to God.

I’m married with three girls, and they’re obviously very, very impor­tant to me. I don’t tour: I’m not on the road for long periods of time. Next year I’ll be in Australia for 11 days — but then there are long periods when I’m at home. My wife’s a teacher — and she’s a massive in­fluence on me. My mum is still very much part of my life. I never had a very close relationship with either my dad or stepdad.

I work mostly with adults, and children in secondary schools. It’s mime and ministry. Primary-school-age children will like the first pieces, but mime gets too heavy and too deep for them. The best age group is definitely the 20-60-year-olds. You’ll also get 70-80-year-olds who will love it, and teenagers that love it.

I do a lot of work for teenagers. I work in schools and youth groups, and talk about teenage choices. It’s about my own story of rejection as a teenager. So many teenagers are hurt­ing because of their own baggage.

The difference between mime and drama is that mime recreates life, whereas drama copies life. Mime is life stylised and recreated: you either leave it or get involved. In mime, the movements are bigger, stylised — not realistic. It’s closest to cartoons. It’s bigger than life; so my move­ments have the ability to draw people into my world. It’s so much about emotion: it does pull the heart­strings.

I don’t use silent mime: I always use music and songs, often acting out the words — for example, Simon of Cyrene carrying Jesus’s cross. Marcel Marceau almost always used backing tracks. But the character is always silent. I might make sounds, but never words. I usually use songs by Christian artists, but if not, then film soundtracks or classical music.

We always need the sermon or talk, but we are such a visual people,we need to use the arts for getting the message across. The Hebrews wouldn’t listen to Ezekiel, but listened to the false prophets. Amazingly, God makes Ezekiel mute, and he has to act out his prophecies. People retain 20 per cent of what they hear, but 80 per cent of what they see.

The number of times people have said to me, “Wow! I’ve heard that so many times, but you’ve brought it to life.” It puts meat on the Bible characters.

My sole purpose in Behold Ministry is as an evangelist. I get a booking and go and perform. Occasionally,

I teach at workshops in churches and schools. I’ve made a couple ofDVDs, too. I’m not really sure what I’ll do next. I’m just plodding along, doing what God wants me to do.

I always used to enjoy art, and I’m getting back into that again. I do pictures and sell them. I’ve just started a series called “Through the Master’s eyes”, seeing the world as Jesus saw it from the cross.

I knew I couldn’t be a scientist, or anything like that. I left school at 16, and didn’t do well in my exams. I’m very blessed that God’s given me the work of my heart.

The most important choice was definitely to follow God, to become a Christian. Has to be.

I don’t do regrets. I think you have to keep looking forward. We make mistakes, but God always brings good out of it.

I see the mess our teenagers are in — a lot have lost the plot and it’snot their fault. It’s our genera­tion’s fault that they are so selfish and insular.

The greatest reward is not money, but when someone says that I’ve had a deep and profound effect on their life.

Elvis really did influence me in my teens, and his music is one reason why I became a Christian.

I do remember a sermon on a CD from Bill Johnson, an American guy. Also, Jeff Lucas is an inspira­tional speaker that I love listening to. I heard him at an Elim conference and I’m working with him at a Man­date conference in Belfast.

We do buy Fairtrade products. We get their organic coffee, and some of their wines as well.

I don’t do Deuteronomy very much, but I love the Gospels. And I like James. He’s so down-to-earth and easy to read.

We’ve been very fortunate, as I’ve done tours of New Zealand and taken my family with me for the whole month of August two years running. But now holidays have to be wherever we can afford. Holidays are so expensive now. It doesn’t seem justifiable to spend so much money.

Political correctness makes me angry, when it goes too far. I really don’t lose my temper: it just winds me up. Also, when teenagers come up and I can see they need a hug, but I can’t give it to them. I don’t want to go round hugging children — you’d better be careful how you put this — but a man gave me a daddy-bear hug, and it moved me . . . helped me be­come a Christian. You can’t do this now.

I mostly pray for my family, I guess, and for my ministry.

I’d love to meet people who changed the world, like Martin Luther King: they must be so inspiring to be with. There’s no one around like that today; so I’ll go for the dead. The world is lacking heroes at the mo­ment.

Steve Murray was talking to Terence Handley MacMath.



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