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5 minutes with Sean McGinley: 'TV isn't about dumbing down anymore'

As he appears in Headlong's production of Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme in Liverpool, Sean McGinley talks growing up in Ireland, the peace process and how great TV is


They didn't have drama schools where I grew up in Ireland in the '70s. I come from Donegal and there's a strong tradition of amateur drama, particularly in rural Ireland and in my home town of Ballyshannon. So a lot of people were familiar with the theatre canon, but doing it for a living wasn't thought of as a realistic option.

I was acting in a play at university when the founders of Druid Theatre company saw me. They asked me to be in one of their plays. Garry Hynes and Marie Mullen, who I had never met before, came up to me in the street the next day and asked me to join them. I really genuinely thought they were having me on but I said yes. And here we are.

I have known Frank McGuinness, the writer of Observe the Sons of Ulster for a long time. I had never seen the play before now but I had read it. It's set on the eve of the Battle of the Somme and follows a brigade from Northern Ireland. The play ends on the eve of the battle and it is about eight young men and the relationships that start between them.

Some of the protagonists of what we now call the peace process came to see the play when it first opened at the height of the troubles in 1985. The Loyalists arranged meetings in Dublin and they went to see it at the Peacock Theatre. Frank was teaching at the University of Ulster in the early '80s so what was going on was very present in his mind.

It was exciting working on the TV series The Fall. TV is an increasingly important medium and I think that's nearly always because of the quality of the writing. I think people who make TV have a bit more respect for their audience. It's not so much about dumbing down as it used to be. There's no end of quality stuff. Top writers want to write for TV and as a consequence top actors want to be part of it.

This is my first play in about seven years. I'm really glad to be doing it. The gap wasn't by choice it was just how the work fell. I found it quite terrifying coming back, especially the closer we got to opening night. But we opened and nobody got hurt so now it just feels great to be back again.

Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching Towards the Somme runs at the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool until 25 June and then continues to tour.

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