Rynagh O’Grady trained at the Abbey Theatre, and after working with the Abbey Company for a year left for London. She did a number of courses in England and Europe, including six months with Grotowski at his Theatre Laboratory in Poland.
In the seventies, fringe theatre in London was where all the most exciting work was taking place and many companies were the start of lots of now very successful careers. Simon Callow, Maggi Steed, Denis Lawson, Antony Sheer, Colm Meaney, Francis de la Tour, to name but a few, who all worked with Rynagh in The Half Moon in the east end of London. Her favorite role from those days was Joan in Joan of the Stockyards by Brecht which Pam Brighton directed.
Rynagh joined The National Theatre Company for over three years under the artistic director Peter Hall and worked with Bill Bryden, Michael Blakemore, and Robert Kidd.
“It was a wonderful company to be part of, with every possible facility for actors available. Dance, voice, movement teachers at your disposal every day; with lots of workshops and readings. At the time they had Platform Performances, which gave us the chance to do rehearsed readings and new works for an audience”
Since her return to Ireland in 1990 Rynagh has enjoyed working with Irish companies and writers such as Donal O’Kelly (Mamie Sighs at the Peacock, directed by John Olohan), Billy Roche (The Cavalcaders for Meridian Theatre Co., directed by John Hanrahan, and Brian Friel (Philadelphia Here I Come! with Druid, directed by Paddy Cunneen). Colum Kavanagh & Catherine Barry ( Life After Fred and The Deal directed by Aoibhinn Marie Gilroy for Shiva Productions.) With her own company she toured extensively with Keep Coming Back and Voices in the Wind .
She has appeared in a huge number of TV productions, including one-off dramas like: In the Heel of the Hunt by Jim Allen, Blooming Youth by Les Blair, Tales out of School by David Leyland, August Saturday by William Trevor, The Rector’s Wife by Joanna Trollope and The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchey.
“I was very lucky that my television work gave me the opportunity to work on some very good scripts with excellent directors such as Leslie Woodhead, Les Blair, Herbert Wise, Rob Knights, Diarmuid Lawrence, Ed Bennett, Stephen Frears, Giles Foster, Christopher Morahan & Sydney Macartney.”
Her TV work also included a number of series and quite a lot of comedy, such as Within these Walls and Bless me Father for LWT, Yanks go Home for Granada, Blind Justice and Brotherly Love for BBC, Ultimate Force for ITV, The Cassideys for RTE and of course Father Ted.
“I was thrilled to play Mary O’Leary in Father Ted. Declan Lowney is one of the nicest directors I have worked with. Arthur and Graham wrote fantastic wacky scripts with this undercurrent of shocking truth. We recorded it in front of a live audience in London, which was good as it gave us something to bounce off.”
Her film career is extensive and has brought her to many countries around the world.
“Reds, directed by Warren Beatty, and Far and Away, directed by Ron Howard, took me to the USA. A Nous Les Petites Anglaises, directed by Michele Lang, took me to France. I spent eight weeks in Italy and Austria making Estelle Snyder’s A Flower That Blooms in Winter. It is the best way to visit a country, working reveals lots about the people and country that you would never see if you just visit.”
Rynagh has appeared in many Irish films, including three of the Roddy Doyle features: Commitments, Snapper and When Brendan Met Trudy. Also Night Train, A Love Divided, Widow’s Peak, and Moll Flanders.
In 2015 she worked with Simon Bird on Ernestine and Kit based on Kevin Barry’s short story. With Rosaleen Linehan and Pauline Collins.
Two ladies in their seventies drive through north County Sligo in a neat Japanese car. As they pass by village pubs and beaches, they imagine the terrible, immoral lives people are living today. Their one consolation is the innocence of children. This is an absurd and macabre tale about how the petty-minded destroy themselves.