Blood And Gold

Aug 6 2019 | By More

★★★★☆   Entertainingly meaningful

Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30): Thurs 1– Mon 26 Aug 2019
Review by Hugh Simpson

Blood and Gold, the latest one-woman performance by Scottish Kenyan storyteller Mara Menzies at the Storytelling Centre, mixes joy and tragedy in a gloriously fulfilling hour.

Personal experiences, stories from the Yoruba people of west Africa and recent local reality are mixed together in a deftly constructed, interlocking series of narratives whose structure is all the cleverer for being apparently spontaneous.

Mara Menzies in Blood and Gold. Pic: Kat Gollock

The overall structure – about a dying mother who leaves her daughter a box containing secrets – is more than just a framing device, with early hints paying off later.

Director Isla Menzies and dramaturg Francisca da Silveiras also deserve credit for such a beautifully realised production. Mara’s sister Isla in particular has worked wonders with the direction. The performance is varied and flows much more easily than many such one-handers do.

The stories that Menzies weaves are full of expertly crafted light and shade, often most serious when they seem most playful, or starkest when they become most fantastic. Issues arise – of colonialism and slavery, of belonging and identity, of self-confidence and self-hatred – without being hammered home.

a sparkling, often joyous excursion

Yet there are definitely issues to be confronted, with the state-sanctioned rise of intolerance and the continuing unwillingness of Scots to face up to exactly how much the country benefited from the slave trade.

Mara Menzies in Blood and Gold. Pic: Kat Gollock

If that sounds dry or preachy, then nothing could be further from the truth – this is a sparkling, often joyous excursion, featuring (largely) low-key audience interaction. And if the realities depicted are troubling, there is even a simple exhortation for how to improve things. Or seemingly simple, as it is something so many find impossible to do.

Above all, Menzies’s stage presence is so benignly authoritative, so contained and yet so versatile, that it is impossible not to be drawn in completely.

While it is wrong to review an audience, the more story-telling slanted shows do rely on them to a greater degree and it is difficult not to wonder whether this would be a five-star show with a slightly more varied and more responsive crowd than on this occasion.

As it is, this is probably the best thing Mara Menzies has done yet – which is already saying something.

Running time 1 hour (no interval)
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High St, EH1 1SR (Venue 30)
Thursday 1– Monday 26 August 2019
Daily (not Mons 12,19) at 2.00 pm.
Tickets and details:

Artist website:
Facebook: @MaratheStoryteller
Instagram: @marastoryteller
Twitter: @marastoryteller

Mara Menzies in Blood and Gold. Pic: Kat Gollock


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