Nzinga Warrior Queen

Mara Menzies

Scottish Storytelling Centre

From 04 August 2016 to 19 August 2016

Rating: ****

Review by Graeme Strachan

This historical piece opens with welcome scene-setting introduction from veteran performer Mara Menzies, defining her own familiy history and her relationship with the historical figure, after which she dons a shawl and cane and, in an effortless change of physical stance and vocal timbre, brings us the aging warrior Queen, Nzinga, looking back over her life and the moments that shaped her audacious and resonating existence.

The audience is taken on a journey through Nzinga's life from her days as an impetuous youth, vying with her step-brother for her father's attentions and favour, through her life as she becomes a mother, a warrior, a politician and a leader.

At every stage, each evocation is beautifully realised by Menzies through simple costume changes and slight affectations of mannerism and gait. It's a sonorous pleasure, with live percussion accompaniment from Yamil Ferrera who also takes the stage, moving energetically in tandem with Menzies as a visual stand-in for various men in Nzinga's life.

By the end of the story, the audience feels refreshed, educated and enriched by the tale, which is itself enhanced by the Scottish and African oral traditions on which it draws. A mesmerising performance and a wonderful hour to spend.