“When Paddy Goes to Petra” feels like a flawless theatrical masterpiece.
Aine Ryan skilfully combines tragedy and comedy, embroiling the audience in an adventure to a foreign land -The Lost City. The production explores the stages of grief after losing a child with constant complex changes of emotion.
This trip to the ancient city of Petra in Jordan encourages Paddy to feel a fresh wonder for the world, he develops new friendships and begins an exciting love affair…with himself. Pretending to lose his passport so he can stay longer in Petra, Paddy begins a journey of rediscovery and renewed enthusiasm for living.
From the first moment we set eyes on Paddy, he is absorbed in his guidebook in silence. We are drawn into his holiday adventure when he begins to look straight into the audience faces, drawing us into his confidence, with his twinkling eyes and charming persona.
Extremely versatile Brendan Dunlea gives a hugely convincing performance playing loveable Paddy with such dexterity and lightness of touch. He creates a striking persona of a man searching to see the brightness in life again. Dunlea has a remarkable ability to connect to the audience and story-tell while keeping the audience consistently engaged, as if he was an old friend having an intimate conversation between just you and him.
The script was cleverly and beautifully written, evolving with yet more and more surprises, it slowly lures the audience in, as we laugh and cry in equal measures – often together, as his crisis unfolds and we learn more and more of his pained existence.
We feel his joy, his sorrow, his physical and mental pain and his total exhaustion of all things mundane – and the hopeless life he seems to have left behind.
We also get to know an assortment of diverse characters all played by Dunlea – from Paddy’s wayward wife, and family friends from Ireland to his amiable but eccentric tour guide (played so well that I almost forgot it was a one-man play!) A truly extraordinary actor!
He immerses himself into the local traditional culture, with the quick twist of a head scarf, a loaned bedouin coat and some hastily painted eyeliner and embraced the simple pleasures of life, such as seeing the dawn sunrise over the majestic ancient city of Petra. Here he truly feels at peace at last!
One of the highlights of the show was a powerful scene when the rain-drenched Paddy falls off a slippery rock, is injured and looks death in the eye. His terrifying scream as he shouts his dead son’s name – was heart-wrenching!
The set consisted of simple rostra surrounded well arranged, warm, rose-coloured sheets, simple stools, rugs and suitcases. All this, together with the warm soft lighting and the soundscape of traditional Jordanian music transported the audience into a new land.
The stage was flexible and well-used as he constantly discovered new experiences along his journey.
When Paddy Goes to Petra is Monologue Drama at its best!
When Paddy Goes to Petra, 1-5th November at the Brockley Jack Theatre.