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, a festival showcasing high quality new work, from January 21-26.

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 very 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 explained 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,” she said.

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. When he is alone in his room he speaks to the audience, delivering a heart-breaking monologue of a young man on the brink.

The play is directed by Shauna Kelpie, and performed by a stellar cast including Patrick McBrearty (Colleen Bawn, Lyric), Cathy Brennan Bradley (Pennies From Heaven, Supanova Productions), Gemma Walker (The Makeyuppers) and Marty Maguire (Ardnaglass on the Air, C21 Theatre Company).

There will be a tour in Northern Ireland 14th -18th January before the company go to New York, supported by the Halifax Foundation for Northern Ireland and the Community Foundation for NI.

The Origin Theatre 1st Irish Festival has been going for ten years and features important work by Irish artists North and South. Blinkered will be shown at a number of locations around the city between January 21-28. The project to bring the play to the US is supported by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland Professional Arts Abroad Programme and Culture Ireland.

Lizzie Devlin, Community Arts Development Officer of the Arts Council of Northern Ireland said: “The Arts Council of Northern Ireland is proud to support Sole Purpose in touring this powerful play around the region before featuring it at the Origin Theatre 1st Irish Festival in New York. 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 Productions visit www.solepurpose.org Information about the Origin Theatre 1st Irish Theatre Festival is on https://www.origintheatre.org/whats-on/1st-irish-festival/’

CAPTION: Patrick McBrearty and Gemma Walker performing in Blinkered, a play about teenage suicide, which will be performed at the 1st Irish Festival in New York later this month. The play was written and produced by Patricia Byrne of Sole Purpose Productions based in Derry.

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