This bold, poetic, storytelling performance by Jo Blake is more of a series of questions than a search for truth. A complex and challenging mythopoia using the rich source material of the Welsh masterwork Mabinogion, Blake deliberately never gives one time to relax or settle. The movement and dance integral to the piece ebbs and flows and gradually the eponymous Blodeuwedd emerges from simple props of water, flowers and dust.
Bold, poetic appeal for women’s stories to be told by women.
The story is simple enough, a magician, a king and a number of other archetypal figures endeavour to create a woman from magic. Her story thereafter is where myth and truth mingle and how creation implies ownership. Woven amongst and around the central narrative is an autobiographical account, an examination of storytelling as process, juxtaposing the male-wrought, male-told myth of Blodeuwedd with the present day and culminating in an appeal for women’s stories to be told by women.
The dance and sheer physicality of the piece are at times almost primitive, both stage and performer covered in water and earth. An ersatz circle, of protection or summoning, is formed from the simple props and from within this the Blake writhes, stamps, fights and pleads.
The performance is uneven, the central myth is a strong hook but is a long time coming. Blake’s delivery is generally low key and dreamlike, before becoming cacophonous finally. It lacks the drama of a conventional theatre piece, with peaks and troughs in unexpected places. At times the text strives for meaning and weight which it can’t quite bear, the work has an exploratory feel and will no doubt settle down over a long run. The work is leavened by humour but would benefit from more opportunities for the audience to take a breath. Where it was strongest was where the analogy was clearest, where the ancient story and the modern autobiography met. Interesting, inventive and a welcome contrast to much of the more mainstream fare at Fringe.