Friday, October 06, 2006

Sean McGinley's Return

Whatever works for you, I suppose. Writer Stuart Carolan's work as a playwright could hardly be further from the bawdy fun he used to create as the voice behind Navan Man, the Irish Essex man who once haunted the drive time airwaves. But that, all the same, is where actor, Sean McGinley, who takes the lead role in Carolan's Abbey debut, first came across the writer.

"Long before I knew it was him, I was a fan of Navan Man," says McGinley, who plays Seamus Lamb in Carolan's The Empress of India. The pair first came close to working together on the writer's last play, Defender of the Faith, a brutal tale of betrayal in a republican paramilitary cell. For various reasons, the final production featured Tom Hickey instead, but something was kindled between the pair.

And so The Empress of India, which centres on the troubled soul of a big name actor whose life has been destroyed by grief, and whose career is fairing little better, was written. The piece was, rumours have it, conceived with McGinley in mind. But that is, of course, rather different to be based on McGinley -- "Whatever the catalyst was," says McGinley, "The piece was already in his head." And the
character is more likely, in fact, to recall a different generation of larger than life Europeans who made their name in Hollywood, such as Richards Harris or Burton.

For McGinley, however, it doesn't matter which. "I didn't have other actors in mind when I was rehearsing the part. There may be certain things in the rhythms, but I deliberately didn't want it to be doing an impression of anyone."

The Empress of India marks the first time in five years that McGinley, who was one of the original member of Galway's Druid Theatre company, has appeared on the stage. All the same, he has been far from invisible in that period, giving flesh to Roddy Doyle's abusive husband, Charlo, in The Family, and working directors such as Michael
Winterbottom (on the 24 Hours Party People's directors hugely under-rated, The Claim) as well as joining the ranks of Irish actors roaming the streets of turn of the century hell's Kitchen in Gangs of New York.

"It wasn't a conscious choice," says McGinley. "it is just being a freelance actors there are all sorts of other factors involved. I didn't think the last time I was on stage that I wouldn't go on again for five years."

So how does it feel to be back, to plunge again into the routine of nightly shows – and even matinees?

"Amazingly, it felt like I'd never been away, the routine of doing a play every night it feels very like it always did. Very natural. When you're on the stage there are moments when its great and moments when you want to shoot yourself and everyone around you."

Surely there are none of the latter in this production?:

"Well, there are degrees…there are always moments…nights when you think 'shite.' …But that's just the normal cut and thrust of a night on the stage."

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