Culture clash as Macnas and Balor go to Disney
Something of a cultural clash is expected when Balor of the Evil Eye goes to Disneyland during a month-long tour by the Macnas theatre company on the US west coast.
A group of 18 performers, musicians and crew left Galway at the weekend with Balor, which opens in Seattle next week. Based on an allegorical tale from Irish mythology, it is one of the company's most successful and popular shows.
Directed by Rod Goodall, with music by John Dunne, it tells the story of the one-eyed giant who rules the Fomorian race from his stronghold on Tory Island. On the mainland the craftsmen of the Tuatha De Danann chafe under the yoke of Balor's tyranny, incensed by his theft of the sacred cow whose milk never dries up.
Several interpretations of the old tale are possible and it is not without its echoes for contemporary Ireland. At its most basic level, however, it is a universal story about the struggle between good and evil, one which US audiences will recognise.
Macnas will stage the show in downtown venues in Seattle and San Francisco, on the UCLA campus in Los Angeles and in Washington State University in Pullman. The tour is supported by the Department of Foreign Affairs Cultural Relations Committee, which gave Macnas a £15,000 grant, and by Bord Failte in New York.
In 1995 Macnas travelled to Boston and San Francisco with another of its shows based on Irish mythology, Buile Shuibhne/Sweeney, which played to rave reviews and capacity crowds.
According to the Macnas spokesman, Mr Gary McMahon, the first of two nights in Los Angeles is almost booked out and other venues are booking strongly. "We've never been near L.A. before and we were a bit worried about it, but there's huge interest," he said.
Galway is twinned with Seattle and the company hopes to pull in substantial crowds during its week-long run in the Broadway Performance Hall. "The interest is one-third new Irish, one-third old Irish, and one-third general theatre audience," said Mr McMahon.