If the legacy of colonialism is a huge theme in Edinburgh this year, then no show on the Fringe addresses that legacy, and Scotland’s involvement in it, more directly than Mara Menzies’s Blood And Gold, a glittering, beautiful and disturbing one-hour monologue by one of Scotland’s leading theatre artists of African heritage.
Blood And Gold, Scottish Storytelling Centre (Venue 30) * * * *
The imagery of the three or four stories she tells – they sometimes nestle magically inside one another like Russian dolls, making it hard to say exactly where one ends and the next begins – is African, rich with gods and demons and mysterious winds on which mothers can hear their children speak from thousands of miles away.
Yet their content is often powerfully linked to this 21st century moment, as one heroic figure after another – mostly female, sometimes male – fights against The Shadow, a force of mischief and evil that destroys happiness, joy and innocence, and drains the colour from the world.
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The Shadow can be an abuser of women and children, a sower of hate and division, or an outright killer of what is good and hopeful, as in the shocking final story of the racist murder of young Axmed Sheekh, notoriously stabbed to death in Edinburgh’s Grassmarket in 1989.
And although Menzies’ treatment of these varied stories sometimes seems a little too similar in tone, the sheer radiance of her presence, and the rich beauty of Isla Menzies’ production, backed by Dave House’s fine sound design, make this a show well worth watching, for everyone who cares about Africa and the history of colonialism there, or about Scotland’s complex past, and its future.
Until 26 August.