Q&A: Mara Menzies of Nzinga Warrior Queen

With just a few weeks until the Edinbugh Festival Fringe 2016 begins, we want to get to know our acts a little better! First to answer our Fringe Q&A is Mara Menzies, who we’re delighted to welcome back to the Centre with her new show Nzinga Warrior Queen. Blending storytelling and music, it tells the true tale of Queen Anna Nzinga, who defied tradition to rule Angola at the age of 50, keeping her people safe from the Portuguese slave traders.

Where did you first hear the story of Nzinga?

I don’t remember the exact moment I heard her story but I do remember a time when I felt I didn’t know enough about female African leaders and so had many conversations, read a huge amount and so it was at that time that I would have come across her. Stories dwell in your mind for a while – days, months, even years before they are ready to be unleashed. I have had a fascination with her for about 5 years.

How do you bring her story to life in your show?

The show is rooted in storytelling with various theatrical elements to enhance it as a show. Yamil provides a musical element with live percussion and he is also a phenomenal dancer so we have incorporated that too. Because we can, we are using a little technology too to invoke the spirits. You’ll have to see the show to see what I mean! 

You first performed the show at the Just Festival two years ago. How has it changed since then?

There is a much more interaction in this latest show. We learnt some lessons in what did and didn’t work in terms of technology so this version works much better for us. We also have Yamil doing what he does best to really make the most of his physique and dance skills.

What are your favourite Fringe memories from previous years?

My favourite show was an outdoor performance at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Children of the Sea. I also loved Angus, Weaver of Grass at the Storytelling Centre a few years ago. What I love most about the Fringe is the opportunity to meet people from all over the world, see things you would never normally see, for example a Japanese techno performance Siro – it’s a music form that I can’t normally abide, but I loved the show. It’s a chance to meet the world on your doorstep!

What’s on your must-see list for the Fringe 2016?

I haven’t yet had a chance to look at what’s on! But, I’ll find out soon enough and it will be wonderful!

Nzinga Warrior Queen is on at the Scottish Storytelling Centre from 4-19 August (not 10).

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