On the Road: Irish Travellers

Posted by Speakeasy News > Wednesday 08 February 2023 > Shine Bright Lycée What's On

Equestrian performer Bartabas started his “Cabaret of Exile” series with a show about the Jewish culture of Eastern Europe. Now he has focused on Irish Travellers for his latest Zingaro show, that has proved so popular that it has doubled its run. This is the first time that a show in France has paid tribute to this people!

The Irish Traveller community voluntarily detached themselves from the rest of the Irish population in the 1600s to lead a nomadic life mainly in the British Isles. Often tinkers, casual labourers, peddlers, these itinerants also filled a social function by spreading the news of the world.

This travelling people affirms its own identity based on the love of horses and a musical culture of a unique oral tradition. The Zingaro show celebrates this way of life.

As the scenes succeed one another, we go from wonder and laughter to tears, from a solemn scene to the madness of a tap-dance performance. The burial of the mother with fire ravaging the caravan is followed by a priest reading the Bible to sheep on the lost moor, quickly disturbed by the appearance of a Belzebuth mounted on a large black horse or horses that jump over a wedding table. A small horse galloping in the mist, a giant mule and a dwarf rider, associated with a donkey and a giant rider, punctuated with stunt scenes that send shivers down your spine. It’s an immersive multi-coloured event, with acrobats infecting the audience with the pure joy of performance. All aspects of the Travellers' lives are discussed, thanks to Bartabas' poetry and imagination.

As a symbol of freedom and diversity, the show is punctuated by Thomas McCarthy a singer-storyteller who sings the old tunes of this community with live variations of rhythm and Irish tones of four Irish traveller musicians.

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland proved in 2017 the inaccuracy of the assumptions that ensured that “Travellers” descended from other populations, such as Roma or Gypsies.

The Irish Travellers were officially recognized in 2017, as an ethnic minority by the Irish State. March 1  is now celebrated as “Irish traveller Ethnicity Day”. The Irish Traveller Movement estimates that there are 31,000 Travellers in Ireland, making up 0.7% of the population, with a further 15,000 living in the U.K. You can find information about Traveller culture on the Museum of Ireland site.

Till 2 April 2023

Théâtre équestre Zingaro
176 avenue Jean Jaurès
93300 Aubervilliers

CABARET DE L’EXIL: Irish travellers

In French and Irish.

You can also see a documentary about traveller singer Thomas McCarthy at the Irish Cultural Centre in Paris on 15 March.


This show would make an excellent addition to Shine Bright LLCER File 20 The Irish art of exile, or for students studying Brooklyn for LLCER.