Blood and Gold @ The Glad Cafe, Glasgow

Mara Menzies brings her storytelling show to Workers' Theatre's Southside festival

Review by Aileas Pringle | 09 Mar 2020
  • Blood and Gold

Mara Menzies prefaces her sold-out show at Something Has To Happen, the second festival by The Workers’ Theatre, with a powerful defense of the role of the storyteller.  A ‘festival of renewal and celebration of creativity in politically dark times’ seems an appropriate moment to assert how theatre can be both entertainment and a tool of political empowerment.

Pointing to the rise of the far right, Menzies warns of the dangers of allowing dangerous forces to dominate narratives and remake these stories in their own image, and asks us to look again at our colonial past that is at once omnipresent and invisible. In Blood and Gold, she presents beautifully crafted and enacted fairytales which implore us to critically examine the stories we tell ourselves about our past and their role in our understanding of who we are.

A mother facing her own mortality bequeaths her daughter a box of stories. Some celebratory, others cautionary, this box will be her arsenal: stories can give strength and protection, but in turn their words can be sharpened until they turn into the deadliest of weapons. Throughout the interwoven stories, nested within one another like Russian dolls, the characters are haunted by a lurking darkness – a ‘shadow man’, the spectre of colonialism which stirs hatred and seeps into the minds of oppressed people. It is this dark force that seeks to obliterate people through the eradication of their own languages and stories and the imposition of new ones in their place, which tell of the greatness of the settlers and the inferiority of the colonised.

Menzies’ use of fairy tales bring a rich visual depth to her performance: a young man constantly thwarted as he climbs a slippery rope to a land in the sky, until those above reach out their hand upon seeing his hidden wealth. Though the meaning can sometimes be drowned out by the imagery, Menzies creates a world that is dark, enchanting and emotive. Her energy rouses the audience, inviting them to shout and join in with their jokes and dances and riddles, and teasingly commiserating them on their childhood after their initial reluctance to name their favourite stories.

This collaboration shows us how narratives are the result of our collective understanding and experiences: we are not one thing, immutable and unchanging, but our strength comes from our power to write and reshape our stories together.

Part of Workers' Theatre's Something Has to Happen festival