Macha Curses the Men of Ulster by Stephen Reid

Collaboration between Bigger Picture Projects’ Creative Producer Marketa Dowling and writers Helena Close and Liam McCarthy.

Irish legends are epic and magical but can seem inaccessible. The development phase of Tuath Dé experiments in form and language, exploring how ancient Irish myth may be realised theatrically in innovative ways. The project’s aim is to breathe new life into the often neglected “Mythological Cycle”, the oldest of the four ancient cycles of stories.

These early stories are not remote ancient legends but artistically under-explored aspects of Ireland’s pre-Christian identity. The stories of the Cycle represent the last surviving remnants of the Iron Age Celts – a disparate tribe of people originating in Central Europe in 600 BC. They migrated to Ireland where their culture would eventually dominate.

We are particularly interested in the centrality and agency of women in this culture and the dominant presence of female deities. While many of the sagas were handed down to us through a Christian perspective, our interest is in their pre-Christian origins. They are epic in scope and concern issues of war, economy and politics. But they are also personal, bawdy and romantic. We celebrate the comedy, energy and sexiness of the tales of Macha, The Dagdae and others.

This work builds upon established artistic partnerships. In 2020 Marketa commissioned three writers – Myles Breen, Helena Close and Liam McCarthy – to adapt three Irish myths. The results were Étaín, The Wooing of Emer and The Intoxication of the Ulaid, realised as the STORIES FOR IMBOLC podcasts for Belltable:Connect. The project was available on SoundCloud in February 2021, achieving just under 1,000 downloads.

This development is supported by the Arts Council.

Illustration credit: Macha Curses the Men of Ulster by Stephen Reid