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Michaella McCollum drug mule story to be staged at Edinburgh Fringe Festival

By Laura Abernethy

A new play inspired by the exploits of Tyrone drug smuggler Michaella McCollum is set to hit the stage.

Writer and director Kat Woods, originally from Enniskillen, has based her latest work on the story of McCollum and her friend Melissa Reid, who were caught with drugs worth £1.5m at an airport in Peru in 2013.

Kat's new play, called Mule, is set to preview in London next month before it goes to the world-famous Edinburgh Fringe Festival in August.

The Peru Two, as McCollum and Reid were dubbed, will not benefit from the production.

The story will feature different characters and an altered plot, but the idea and themes for Kat's play were inspired by McCollum and Reid.

Kat explained: "I was inspired by their story. I read quite a bit about them because they were engulfed in this media frenzy whenever it first broke.

"I had been reading a lot of hate towards the two girls and that really affected me as a person and made me question my own humanity. They were young girls who made a huge mistake - it's not a mistake I would ever make - but it was still a mistake.

"The play looks at drug smuggling, the consequences, the fallout and the time in prison, but it's not a play of their story. But I do want to make people think about why they rush in and judge people straight away.

"We don't know the actual story behind what happened."

The pair have recently hit the headlines again after McCollum was released from prison in Peru while Reid has made requests to be transferred to Scotland.

McCollum was widely criticised after she underwent a glamorous makeover and appeared in an interview with RTE just days after her release.

Kat added: "I have seen a few tweets about how we're putting this girl on a pedestal and that she has contributed to people's addictions.

"It's an argument that just goes round and round in circles and I just want it to be about the play."

This will be Kat's third production at the Fringe festival and it has already created quite a buzz. Mule has been chosen as the Pick of the Fringe by the Guardian, was the Stage Critics' Choice, and Kat received the prestigious Peggy Ramsey Award for her work this year.

The production will run at the Gilded Balloon in the Scottish capital from August 3-29.

In 2014, her play Belfast Boy won two awards and was named one of the must-see shows out of 3,200 at the festival. Based on the true story of a friend who fled Belfast during the Troubles, it recounts his story as he spoke to a psychologist.

Her last play 'Wasted', which looked at the theme of consent, was transferred to New York and will hopefully get a London run in September.

Kat was spotted by arts company Omnibus last year and they made her an associate writer. They have helped her to produce and market Mule.

"It's been amazing news for me that it's already picked up recognition," she said.

"Omnibus have really helped to push it for me and there's a great buzz about it before we even go to Edinburgh.

"There's also a real timeliness about it as they [McCollum and Reid] are back in the news.

"I've been working on it for a while and I never thought it would coincide in this way, so hopefully it will go down well," Kat added.

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