Blood and Gold
- Gareth K Vile
- 15 August 2019
Disappointingly abstract commentary on the power of stories
For the first five minutes, Blood and Gold threatens to be an essential Fringe performance. Mara Menzies introduces her hour of story-telling by gently, passionately and persuasively challenging Scottish exceptionalism on the issue of racism, connecting the nation's historical complicity with slavery and more contemporary acts of racially motivated violence. Unfortunately, her story-telling cycle can't maintain the link and descends into abstract reflections on good and evil.
While Menzies has charisma and constructs her stories with an erudite craft and sensitivity to structure, the weaving of multiple tales exposes a lack of range in characterisation and a simplistic division between virtuous joy-bringing protagonists and thinly disguised demonic antagonists. Elevating the tales into the abstract removes the particularity of folk-tales that lends them immediacy, and mere dualism ignores the complexity of how oppression and cruelty operate.
Each of the stories suggests the horrors of colonialism and imperialist pressure, the artificial corruptions caused by separation and capitalism, and they resolve into the moral triumph of the good: stories themselves are the weapons that ensure virtue's success. Certain metaphors are elegantly extended – 'words are weapons' returns to great effect in several stories – and each story is elegant: it is the repetition of themes, and the lack of detail or grounding in specific injustices that disappoint.
Tellingly, the most effect tale is the framing device, a modern narrative of a young woman embracing her mother's box filled with cultural history. With a clear resonance and message, beyond bad is bad and good is good, it does suggest that stories are a valuable resistance to the oppressions of patriarchal, racist and capitalist strictures.
Scottish Storytelling Centre, until 26 Aug (not 19), 2pm, £12 (£10).