Theatre Preview: Celtic Tides

As part of a series of fringe theatre events currently underway at Bootleg Social, folklorist and storyteller Oliver Lavery is docking at the venue this week with his show Celtic Tides. He shares his top five characters from folklore and mythology.

Celtic Tides beings the audience aboard for a journey through myth, story and song in the form of live musical accompaniment from singer-songwriter and folk musician Tasmin Quin.

“They tell me Lancashire held on to a lot of its Celtic ways for longer than other parts of present-day England – it’s the same with the West Country where I’m from,” says Lavery, who will explore traditional folklore from our wild shores, taking in Welsh witches, Cornish tricksters, Irish pirates, shapeshifting seal women and journeys across the sea into the Otherworld.

“I just found out that Preston has a local story about a midwife’s encounter with a fairy. I was surprised, as I am familiar with the West Country version of the tale, and didn’t know it existed in a version up here. Maybe I’ll tell it when I’m up there.

“As a folklorist, I love seeing the same story pop up in different places, and wondering where it came from originally. In this case it was probably Wales as there is another version told there and it has a Celtic flavour.”

Oliver Lavery’s top five characters from folklore and mythology.

Finn Mcool (Fionn Mac Cumhaill). The leader of the Fianna, the mythical warrior / musician / poets of ancient Britain and Ireland. Finn liked to say “The sweetest music … is the music of what is,” which makes him an early Buddhist in my view.

According to legend, the columns at the Giant’s Causeway were built by Finn Mccool. Photo:

Crow. A Native American Trickster. Similar to other tricksters Wolverine and Coyote, and even the Norse god Loki.

Manannan Mac Lir. The Celtic sea god. He rides about the Atlantic, Celtic and Irish Seas in a chariot drawn by horses. Or sometimes dolphins. He’s like the Greek god Poseidon but a bit less grumpy.

Manannán mac Lir sculpture in Gortmore, on the Causeway coastal route in Northern Ireland. Photo: Kenneth Allen

Gawain. One of the knights of the round table. In the old Welsh tales, he was called ‘The Hawk of May’ and could turn into a hawk. A lot of that weirder stuff disappeared in the Christian era. One of Arthur’s knights could grow his beard really fast. That was his superpower. Seems like he drew the short straw.

Baba Yaga. She’s a witch from Slavic folklore. She lives in a cottage that runs about the forest on giant chicken feet and eats children.

Baba Yaga

Celtic tides is at Bootleg Social 18th May. Tickets here.

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