The Show
Behind the Scenes

Mysteries 2003



Macnas is a community based arts and theatre company. Founded in 1986 in Galway, Ireland, Macnas has established itself as one of the most exciting energies in the Arts in Ireland. Macnas brings its particular blend of imagination, passion, wit and self-confidence to bear on a heritage of Irish story and legend in a variety of settings: in theatres, on streets, in stadiums and in television studios in Ireland and abroad.

Macnas first came to national attention in Ireland when a 20 metre long representation of Gulliver was washed up on a beach in Dublin as part of the Dublin Millennium celebrations in 1988. They have reinforced their position as a force to be reckoned with in the Arts in Ireland with a succession of carnival-styleparadesfor the Galway Arts Festival which attract huge numbers of people to Galway each July.

There is now a strong international dimension to Macnas' work. In the last number of years Macnas has toured extensively throughout Europe. During the Summer of 1993, Macnas was part of Irish Supergroup U2's Zooropa '93 tour which took them to 17 countries to a total audience of three million people over four months.

In November 1995, Macnas created a spectacular opening for the MTV European Music Awards in Paris which was seen by an estimated world-wide audience of 600 million.

Macnas 96 Parade

Macnas 96 Parade

The development of Macnas's indoor theatre work has been no less successful with the unique Macnas style of physical theatre, married to a live musical accompaniment, providing the basis for an exceptionally exciting body of work.
Macnas combines its international touring of theatre and street spectacles with a continuing commitment to developing Community Arts celebrations and training in Ireland.

With a workforce in excess of 50 made up of performers, animateurs, designers, technicians and administrators, Macnas is involved in a variety of projects in schools, with people with disability and with Community Arts groups all over Ireland passing on the expertise gained by this unique company in the ten years of its existence.

Macnas - Grainne Mhaol 2002

Grainne Mhaol 2002


Since it was founded in 1986, Macnas has established a reputation in Ireland and overseas for the energy and spectacle it brings to its unique performances. With shows like Alice In Wonderland, Treasure Island and Circus Story, Macnas took the energy of the street and brought it indoors to unusual venues such as disused garages, deserted warehouses and old cinemas. Over the years Macnas has refined this energy to create one of the most original voices in Irish theatre with a distinctive style that is highly visual, physical and inventive. The company’s impressive repertoire includes:


With its premiere at EXPO '92 in Seville, Spain, Táin heralded the creation of a new form of Irish Theatre for the World stage. While eschewing language and dialogue, Táin combined the elements of movement, live music and dynamic design with the world of the 8th Century Ulster Cycle of stories. Macnas brought a new perspective to the ancient Celtic story of Queen Medb of Connacht, King Concubar of Ulster and their respective heroes Ferdia and Cuchulainn which moved and amazed audiences in Spain, Ireland and Britain. Táin was nominated for a special UNESCO Award at EXPO and went on to be named Best Irish Production at the 1992 Dublin Theatre Festival.

Buile Shuibhne/


Following the success of Táin, the Macnas team came together in the summer of 1994 to create a new theatre piece. Buile Shuibhne/Sweeny is based on the story of the pagan King Sweeny of Antrim, his dispute with the Christian Abbot Ronan and Sweeny's eventual descent into madness. Once more Macnas created a theatrical triumph which toured Ireland, France and the United States and won Best Irish Production Award at the Dublin Theatre Festival for the second time.


Balor, the final part of the Celtic Trilogy of theatre pieces, premiered in November 1995 at the newly opened Town Hall Theatre, Galway. The show retells the story of Balor, a mythical Celtic Cyclops who ruled the island of Tory off the Donegal coast and who, it is prophesied, will be slain by his grandson Lú. Balor is a stunning combination of colour, music and spectacular special effects which The Irish Times described as "An unqualified triumph." Balor toured to Bogota, Columbia in March, 1996 and Ireland in the Autumn of that year. In 1997, Balor plays at Mayfest in Glasgow, Scotland and at various theatres in the United States in September and October.

Rhymes From The Ancient Mariner

In a major departure on a number of fronts, Macnas created Rhymes from the Ancient Mariner in the new Black Box Performance Space in Galway for the 1996 Galway Arts Festival. Set in both 1950's Galway and in 1798, the show followed the voyage of Coleridge's Mariner from the Antarctic Ice Flows to the Saragossa Sea. Blending fire, ice, rain and snow it conjured up a fantastic theatrical world of moving ice-bergs, tall ships, an 'albatross' on a trapeze and other surprises. Unfortunately for those who didn't make it to the festival, the show's 14 performances are the only ones the show will ever have.

The Dead School

In July 1998, Macnas and Galway Arts Festival came together to present “The Dead School” by Patrick McCabe. The production featured Mick Lally in the role of Raphael Bell, the old-style national school teacher whose life is haunted by images and memories from his past. The show was directed by Joe O’Byrne and was nominated in two categories for The Irish Times ESB Theatre Awards where Tom Conroy triumphed winning Best Set Design for his highly imaginative stage design. The production was critically acclaimed for its strongly visual and theatrical interpretation and after its original sell out run in Galway, it was revived the following year for an eight week Irish tour, which included two weeks at Dublin’s Olympia Theatre. On tour the show was seen by over 12,500 people nation-wide.

Egg Palm - Mysteries 2003

Egg Palm - Mysteries 2003

Diamonds In The Soil.

Also in 1998, Macnas premiered a unique vision of a unique artist. “Diamonds In The Soil” saw Macnas explore the life and work of Vincent Van Gogh through an exciting new collaboration led by artist Patrick O’Reilly and director Mikel Murfi. The production was a stunning combination of masks, movement, design, lighting and performances and contained some of the most memorable and moving images ever created by Macnas. The Irish Times described it as “ a visual allegory of the mind in disarray, disturbing and persuasive”. Antonio Gil Martinez brilliantly portrayed Van Gogh and, together with a highly inventive team, brought to life the story of this tortured genius. The production opened in the Dublin Theatre Festival where it played to capacity audiences before touring nationally in October and November.

The Odyssey

The visit to Galway in the mid 1980s of the Spanish Street Theatre group, Els Comediants and their performance of “Devils” has long been written into local folklore as a turning point in the city’s culture. Their energy, vibrancy and anarchy were the sparks that ignited Macnas and in 1999 the St. Patrick’s Festival afforded Macnas the opportunity to collaborate with Comediants in the nation’s capital. The inspiration for the work was Homer’s Odyssey, via Joyce’s Ulysses, with a large dose of the imagination of two highly creative companies. The show was staged at the Fusiller’s Arch at Stephen’s Green and began with live chat show, hosted by Telemachas, who told the story of his father, Ulysses. When Ulysses appeared the audience were led through the narrow streets of Dublin where they encountered Hades, the Lestrygonians, six headed monsters, the Cyclops and the seductive music of the Sirens, before being led back to the main-stage for a spectacular finale. This production proved so popular that it was repeated the following March at College Green for an even bigger audience.

The Lost Days of Ollie Deasy

The rich source of Homer’s Odyssey again proved to be the inspiration for Macnas’ production of “The Lost Days of Ollie Deasy” which opened in Leisureland in Galway in July 2000. The show was a truly epic concoction: part play, part parade, part All-Ireland hurling final! The journey became a quest through rural Ireland transporting the 400 strong audience on an imaginary bus as they accompany young Terry Deasy as he searches for his long lost father, Ollie a great hurling hero who has been missing for 20 years. The director Mikel Murfi summed it up well when he said :

“We journey through minds at times, rather than places. What you see in this production is a homage to rural Ireland and the extraordinary journeys made there. It is meant as a celebration of Irishness. In particular this is the tale of Ollie Deasy: a hurling hero who goes on a journey of both body and mind to address his demons”. The production transferred to The Mansion House for the Dublin Theatre Festival where it won the prestigious Best Irish Theatre Production. It was the third time that the company won this award.

Grainne Mhaol

Grainne Mhaol is nothing less than Macnas's attempt to re-invent the pageant. Macnas is best known, of course, for it's outdoor parades and its indoor mythological spectacles. Grainne Mhaol builds on this work, but it also marks a new direction for the company.

The new style is a synthesis of the old achievements. From the parades, there is the mix of professional performers with community volunteers, the clatter of massed drums, the stilt-walkers, and the flag-wavers. From the indoor shows, there is the use of a dramatic narrative, which connects to the Gaelic past. If you put these two strands together what you get is a pageant. The attempt to revive the form depends crucially on the elegance with which the two different strands are woven together into a coherent whole.

Fintan O'Toole - Irish Times

Egg  - Mysteries 2003

Egg - Mysteries 2003


"...mad and constantly entertaining"

Andrew McKimm, Evening Herald, October 2000

"Macnas has made a name for itself in bringing theatre to unusual venues and reaching audiences who, when they hear the word culture, would normally reach for a gun.

"[The Lost Days of Ollie Deasy] was an innovative reinvention of theatre"

Mary Kate O'Flanagan,
The Sunday Business Post, October 2000

"For something different, creative and shaded with brilliance [Diamonds in the Soil] is one to savour"

Gerry Colgan,
The Irish Times, October 1998

"[The Dead School is] an 80 minute explosion of theatrical ideas"

Mic Moroney,
The Guardian, July 1998

"...combin[ing] puppetry, mime, dance and song into a compelling visual physical narrative"

Jocelyn Clarke,
The Sunday Tribune, July 1998

"Conceptually, [The Dead School] is one of the most adventurous pieces of theatre I have seen for some time...

"audacious and dazzlingly inventive, with plenty of Macnas touches"

Marion McKeone,
Sunday Business Post, July 1998

"During it's theatre shows Macnas transforms it's audiences into one huge open-mouthed stare... Gradually little question marks start popping up like balloons above their heads, and always the same question: how do they do that? For the last ten years Macnas have made a virtue of the question, seducing audiences in Ireland and around the world with it's techno-pagan spectacles of music movement and masks...

"It is a story of 'having fun on a grand scale' and making the impossible real and accessible to everybody...

"Macnas' contribution to Irish theatre creation is unique"

Jocelyn Clarke,
Cara Magazine November/December 1996
Hell Carts - Mysteries 2003

"Physical theatre is almost too polite a term to use for the troupe's style. Pagan ritual is more like it"

San Francisco Chronicle, March 1995

"Macnas blends spirits of ancient and modern Ireland into a heady, stunningly theatrical brew. This is the kind of theatre that makes magic feel like an every day commodity and turns the commonplace mythical"

San Francisco Examiner,
March 1995

"Ireland should support this troupe as a national resource. We in America should get them back here as soon as possible"

Boston Pheonix, March 1995

"Macnas has been in the business of inventing an Irish version of the European tradition of dramatising urban public spaces, and even indoors their style is defiantly streetwise - sound and fury, spectacle and gesture"

Fintan O'Toole,
The Irish Times, October 1994

Macnas has created a unique and magnificent and telling form of theatre which is as Irish as it comes and yet is totally international"

The Belfast Newsletter,
November 1994

"Kathi Leahy's production is a roaring success. It has the impulsive directness of the old community pageants and the fresh stream-like quality of a good parade. It also has the beauty and visual complexity of contemporary physical theatre, drawing judiciously on influences as diverse as Els Comedients, Footsbarn, Robert Wilson and Robert Lepage."

Fintan O'Toole - Irish Times - Friday 19th July 2002

"the transfer of Macnas from the festival streets to the Big Top is in theatrical terms a seamless one. Its show 'Grainne Mhaol' is a vibrant; expressive piece of theatre which uses all of Macnas's creative ta1ents and imagination to put together a show that is as much a spectacle as any of the company's previous parades."

Sunday Tribune

"No Galway Arts Festival would be worthy of the name without the participation of Macnas, which has for a decade been one of the main movers behind the city's thriving cultural scene. This year the company has foregone its traditional parade to concentrate its energies on a production of Grainne Mhaol a dramatic presentation of the life of the feisty 16th century pirate queen, Grace O'Malley"

Irish Independant magazine
July 10 2002

"At this stage you probably know what to expect from a Macnas show. ..boundless! Energy, manic performances frantic drumming and dancing, and strong community involvement .. And their latest production of Grainne Mhaol' comes up with the goods again in those departments."

Ciaran Tierney
Connacht Sentinel
July 16-07-02