Powerful Derry play with focus on suicide to be performed in New York

Patrick McBrearty and Gemma Walker, performing in Blinkered.
Patrick McBrearty and Gemma Walker, performing in Blinkered.

A powerful play about the devastating impact of teen suicide will have its US premiere at a major theatre festival in New York.

Blinkered, written by Patricia Byrne of Sole Purpose Productions in Derry will be performed at the 1st Irish Festival in New York later this month.

The production, which examines the impact of mental health and suicide among young people, was first shown in Derry in 2016, touring local schools and later had a successful seven week tour of theatre venues around Ireland in 2017.

As a result of this success they were invited by the organisers of the 1st Irish Festival to bring the play to New York, performing in the boroughs.

Sole Purpose Productions will be working in partnership with the city’s Department of Education, the New York Irish Centre and Solace House Suicide Prevention Centre.

Patricia Byrne said that they were invited to the festival after speaking to a number of interested organisations in New York in June last year: “Among the people I met was Jane McCarter, Arts and Cultural Director of the New York Irish Centre, who used to work in The Derry Playhouse. She was interested in showing Blinkered and also with us doing some work around mental health with Solace House Suicide Prevention Centre.

“Solace House, formerly known as Pieta House, was set up in Dublin and established a base in New York two years ago. They do a lot of work around suicide prevention with the Irish Diaspora.”

Blinkered tells the story of Ryan, a young man dealing with feelings of isolation, frustration and loneliness and his overwhelming thoughts of taking his own life.

The play is directed by Shauna Kelpie, and performed by a stellar cast including Patrick McBrearty, Cathy Brennan Bradley, Gemma Walker and Marty Maguire.

There will be a tour across Northern Ireland from January 14 to 18 supported by the Halifax Foundation for NI and the Community Foundation for NI. It will then be shown at a number of locations around New York City between January 21 and 28, supported by the Arts Council NI Professional Arts Abroad Programme and Culture Ireland.

Lizzie Devlin, Community Arts Development Officer at the N. Ireland Arts Council, said: “We live in a time when issues of depression and suicide amongst our young people are increasing, therefore, this play is a great example of using the arts to educate and understand these difficult issues that young people face and I would encourage everyone to go along.”

For more information about Sole Purpose visit: www.solepurpose.org
*The Lifeline helpline is open 24 hours a day, every day of the year. Anyone of any age living in the North can call the Lifeline helpline for free on 0808 808 8000 if they are experiencing distress or despair. At Lifeline you can talk to a professionally trained counsellor who will listen, give help and support, in confidence.