Blood and Gold
Scottish Storytelling Centre
It's becoming almost expected now that every Fringe, Mara Menzies and her trusty cohorts will bring another richly told tale to the Edinburgh stage. With Blood and Gold, there is the usual blended mixture of African traditional music, dance and mythology, told with a dash of wry Scottish humour and charisma.
Delving into Kenyan folklore, as well as traditional European stories, she weaves a series of interlinked tales that touch on themes of identity, migration, colonialism and what it means to find a home. It's a tale that works with deft subtlety, never making the allegories too thickly laid on or preachy, rather appealing to the basic truths and kindness in all people, touching on how the crueller aspects of humanity can be brought out in people.
It's a performance that also brings a harsh reality with it, as the opening flatly lays out some of the awkward truths of Scotland's historic complicity with slavery, which is so often overlooked. This fits surprisingly well with the unravelling tales, all of which seem to feature the same mist-like Shadowman, whispering a voice of fear into those who don't know their stories, in essence those who have forgotten their history.
But as ever, this is no didactic lecture; it's a warm and welcoming story, with Menzies calling on interaction from the audience in song, suggestion and swaying of shoulders. It's a happy place to be, and at the end of the tale you feel both a little younger and a lot wiser for it.
Reviewer: Graeme Strachan