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Open Hearth: Mara Menzies (Scottish International Storytelling Festival)

ByRaphaela Ashford

Oct 30, 2017

As part of the Scottish International Storytelling Festival 2017, the daily Open Hearth evenings are a great way to end a hectic day – with a variety of different guest speakers each night, the two-hourly events offer an eclectic blend of original pieces with different storytellers every night.

The host of Friday’s event was Mara Menzies, an acclaimed Scottish performance storyteller who introduced us to our evening’s performers. They were to take us on an imagined journey across the world, interweaving aspects of their own culture and traditions into their stories. It was a global affair; storytellers from Ireland, Peru, Spain, Thailand and Kenya came together to tell their tales.  Each storyteller had their own method, but the best were the more active pieces that incorporated the audience to help recreate the sounds like the swoosh of the wind and the galloping of horses.

I particularly liked storyteller Astete’s tales – despite speaking in Spanish and needing to be translated, he was able to communicate simply with his hand movements – signalling, for example, the light of the moon or a person running through the pouring rain without any shoes. His beautiful creation story reimagined how the world came to have one moon, detailing an archer who shot all but one of the multiple out of the sky, each time creating a new city.

 Menzies also excelled; there was something hypnotic about her style as she took the audience with her to North Africa. She recounted the introduction of fire to man and, through her inventive storytelling, was able to highlight both its destructive and constructive nature. She also told a Samson-inspired tale about how one man’s great power can be defined by his shadow.

My personal favourite story of the evening was Wajuppa Tossa’s ‘The Greatest Man in the World’ whose lyrical yet methodical narrative was greatly interactive and amusing for the audience. I was happily surprised to see the array of people in the audience; diversity that extended beyond the guest speakers. From the parched African planes scorched by fire to the Irish green landscape chilled by fog, this little bubble of escapism from the hubbub of Edinburgh, at the Scottish Storytelling Centre. It is well worth a trip!

Open Hearth: Mara Menzies
Netherbow Theatre

Run ended

The Scottish International Storytelling Festival runs until 31 October 

Photo credit: Solen Collet

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