Aidan O’Rourke, Diarmuid McGuinness, and Mary Hughes are taking part in Backstage Theatre Group’s 35th anniversary celebration production of John B Keane’s Sive.

Local trio star in new production of Sive

Three local stars of the stage are to tread the boards in Longford’s Backstage Theatre next week in a production of John B Keane’s Sive.

Directed by Charlie McGuinness, it stars Mary Hughes, Mullingar, Aidan O’Rourke, Ballynacargy, and Killucan-based Diarmuid McGuinness, and runs from Thursday March 30 to Saturday April 1.

Sive paints an unromantic view of rural life in Ireland in the 1950s, but the tale of matchmaking a young girl to an old bachelor for money is not too far-removed from life now.

“The subject of the whole thing is matchmaking, poverty and greed, and it’s dealt with in Sive in a very coarse way,” said Mary Hughes, who plays Nana, Sive’s grandmother.

“While it’s of its time and it may seem very removed from 21st century Ireland, the question we have to ask ourselves is: is it?

“We’re still debating how best to deal with poverty and gender equality; we have dating agencies, human trafficking, exploitation and really all of that is reflected in Sive, but we don’t recognise it as one of our social ills.

“I think what attracts the modern audience is that they can see something, the modern world reflected way back in 1959. We still have the same problems in Ireland and they haven’t been resolved yet,” Mary said.

“Sive was staged first in 1959 in Listowel. John B Keane is my favourite writer of that era. He’s a real storyteller, which I think is the essence of a good writer,” Mary added. “John B had a great insight into inscapes – which is how describes what’s going on inside people, what’s inside the characters in his community.

The cast of Sive: Eileen Murphy, Aidan O’Rourke, Hannah Carelton, Christine O’Brien, Mary Hughes, Diarmuid McGuinness, director Charlie McGuinness, Killian Reid, Thomas Lyons and Philip Cox.

“Nana is a strong women of her time. She was the mother of Mike, who married a woman called Mena. They had an orphan child – Sive, as Mike’s sister died and they were left with this young one to rear. Mena never took to her because she always felt she was a nuisance.

“There’s money at stake. Mike and Mena want to get rid of Sive out of their lives, and also Seán Dóta – the old man Sive is going to marry, is going to take the granny, Nana, with them. So the match represents a new life for them in many ways.

“I think Charlie MacGuinness is very good at bringing out all of the background material in people,” said Mary, adding that Sive was revived and staged in The Abbey in 2014, less than 10 years ago.

An Irish classic and one of the nation’s best loved plays, Sive has passion and tragedy, all told with John B’s lyrical dialogue and great Irish humour.

“It’s a brilliant play, a true classic, you could nearly see Sive all year round in this country it’s so loved by groups and audiences alike,” says Diarmuid McGuinness, who plays Mike Glavin, Sive’s uncle.

“Mike is a conflicted character, not knowing the right thing to do by anybody. Sive’s aunt Mena and a matchmaker Thomasheen try to match her with this older man called Sean Dóta. Mike is against the match initially, but when he finds out that a younger lad, Liam Scuab, is interested in Sive, he starts to think the match with Seán Dóta could be the lesser of two evils.

“He’s torn between what’s right and Mena and Thomasheen’s greed for the money they’ll get if the match goes through. He’s taken advantage of and manipulated as the play goes on, so it’s a really interesting part to play.

“It’s sad really, and shows the mistakes that people make trying to do the right thing by each other.”

There is much needed comic relief provided in the form of two “tinkers”, Carthalawn and Pats Bocock, said Aidan O’Rourke, who plays Carthalawn.

“My character is a singing part, I don’t actually speak at all, any time I speak up, or sing in my case, I’m a little bit of storyteller as to what’s going on,” said Aidan. “I have a little bit of a dig at certain characters sometimes, and in tense situations we enter and lighten the mood with a bit of humour.

“It’s a fantastic part, I’m really enjoying it, and I get to play the bodhrán as well, which is something I’ve never done before. Two months ago, there was never a bodhrán in the house and now there’s three of them here,” said Aidan, who has been in a band for years.

“I’ve played music for a good portion of my life, mostly guitar music, electric and acoustic, so it’s interesting to play a percussion instrument like the bodhrán. I’m really enjoying the instrument, and I bought myself one to have one in the house because I’m really enjoying it as a hobby now.”

Aidan said that it’s has been great to get back on stage after lockdown.

“The last thing I did was Valley of the Squinting Windows, in 2019, so there’s been of a void there with lockdown and theatre seemed to be one of the slowest things to come back.

“Everything else was starting to open up, like pubs and cinema, but drama seemed to be one of the slowest things to re-emerge from sleep. And it’s great to get into a new theatre like the Backstage and meet new people.”

Sive runs Thursday March 30 to Saturday April 1 at 8pm. Tickets are available from and at 043 334 7888.