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Award-winning playwright Áine Ní Riain told David Hennessy about bringing her play Paddy Goes to Petra to London.

An award-winning London-based Tipperary playwright is bringing her latest play to London, exhibiting her work here for the first time.

Paddy goes to Petra by Áine Ní Riain sees rural Ireland meeting the Middle East in a story about loss, grief and finding new joy in life after the very worst has happened.

The plot follows middle aged farmer Paddy who travels to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan. Although his lust for life has long vanished, the trip encourages him to feel a fresh wonder for the world, develop new friendships and even begin a new relationship with himself.

The role of Paddy will be performed by Cork actor Brendan Dunlea (Ros na Rún, An Cailín Ciúin).

Described as a play about survival, strength and carrying on, it tells the story of an Irishman’s inner journey with grief and loss, interlinking it with travel to a remote destination.

The story was inspired by Áine’s own travels and the devastating loss known by so many families all around Ireland and indeed other countries.

Áine told The Irish World: “I travelled to Jordan in Christmas 2018 by myself for three weeks.

“On that trip, I was just so amazed by Petra itself.

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“When you’re travelling over Christmas, you kind of wonder what all these other people on their own, and I was just interested in who all these individual people were who were traveling missing the main holiday season, ‘What’s their reason for coming away for Christmas?’

“For some people, it’s a holiday that it’s too hard to have at home because of a certain trauma or something so they have it by themselves.

“In a lot of my work, I like to explore grief and trauma.

“I was interested in writing a play about someone who loses someone to suicide.

“So I decided to intermingle the two things about a couple who travel to Jordan to get away for the Christmas period but it’s really a story about losing a loved one.

“I was just also interested in the journey of exploring grief.

“Suicide is just such a massive epidemic back in rural Ireland that I wanted to explore that.

“It’s about a man who bonds with some of the Bedoin in Jordan, because I used to be friends with some of the people who live there.

“I loved just how friendly they were and the similarities to Irish culture in a way.

“There are a lot of similarities: Really, really friendly people, extremely hospitable, can’t do enough for you in terms of just making sure you feel welcome.

“And also the way they have their own music and are very proud, especially the Bedouin people who actually live in Petra. Really proud of who they are and really proud of ensuring their culture continues to thrive and that it’s protected.”

From Upperchurch, Co. Tipperary, Áine’s previous work includes the plays Kitty in the Lane and Up the hill Jackie.

Her work has been performed at various festivals such as Edinburgh Fringe Festival and San Francisco International Arts Festival.

Paddy goes to Petra was sold out and received a standing ovation when it was performed at The Source Arts Centre, Thurles and Galway Theatre Festival.

Áine is currently living in London, and holds a B.A (Honours) in Theatre and Performance from Goldsmiths, University of London and a Higher Diploma in Film and Television Production through Irish from WIT/ Nemeton.

Although the play has been well received in Ireland and Áine has played on international stages, this is new ground for her.

“This is the first time I’m actually ever bringing any of my plays to London, and it’s the first time Paddy Goes to Petra has been anywhere outside of Ireland.

“I studied here at Goldsmiths. And then I’ve lived on and off in London for a few years, but I’ve been back in Ireland for the last three, four years and I just moved back here at the start of September.”

Áine grew up at a one night a week pub called Jim of the Mills and credits her story telling as being inspired by the people there and the music and storytelling that happens there every Thursday night.

In fact, she raised funds for this London run with a pared down staging of the play there just last weekend.

Paddy has been a long time making his way to Petra or indeed London due to Covid-19 shutting down all live performances just after it first made its debut. Áine would like to see the play having another life somewhere after this run.

“The very first show was the end of February 2020 but obviously, then COVID hit so for those two years, it was down.

“We did it for Galway Theatre Festival and we got a really good reception in Galway. That was in May this year.

“Hopefully I’d like to definitely try and do more shows in Cork and around Ireland.

“COVID had us down. But now we’re ready to go again.”

And this staging of Paddy Goes to Petra is not the only opportunity London audiences have to view Áine’s work in the coming month as her award-winning short film First Date will screen at Irish Film London Festival.

The film premiered at Galway Film Fleadh in July 2022 and is currently playing at numerous film festivals and recently won Best International Comedy Short Film at Discover Film Awards.

It will be screened at the Irish Film Festival London on the 18 November.

“That’s really exciting.

“It’s doing the rounds of the film festivals at the moment so it’s brilliant to have it in The Irish Film Festival in London here.”

Sounds like it is all happening for you..

“Yeah, it’s great. I guess since COVID, it’s nice to have things back up and running and be able to attend all the events again.

“I have a few other plays that I’m working on writing but it’s great actually have things like the film. That was filmed last year.

“It’s brilliant because you can write for so long, but at the end of the day, you want to get the script on screen or the script on stage.

“So it’s brilliant that things are coming together now all at once.”

Studio Perform Theatre present Paddy goes to Petra, written and directed by Áine Ryan, Tuesday 1 – Saturday 5 November at Brockley Jack Studio Theatre, 410 Brockley Road, London, SE4 2DH.

For more information and to book, click here or call 0333 666 3366 (£1.80 fee for phone bookings only).

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