FringeReview UK 2018
Putting the magic back into menstruation, Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman showcases the magic of human cyclical renewal to uncover the last unmentionable taboo of menstruation in an all-out genre-bending contemporary performance spectacular.
A provocative, rigorously researched, untamed romp into the importance of celebrating the symbolic and cultural power of menstruation. Both deadly serious and hilariously tongue in cheek, this is a show that is part surreal lecture, part magic show, part witchy ritual and part activist protest.
Learn about menstruation and the taboos and politics that seek to contain, control, shame and tax our bodily cycles.
Here not only menstruation and menstrual rights but issues around fertility, miscarriage, trans identities, lost ancient herstories and what it means to be ‘female’, are scrutinised, politicised & reclaimed. Delivered with wry humour, revolutionary politics and spectacular performances including breathtaking reworks of traditional magic illusions and horror cinema classics.
This show has quite the title to live up to, and on the whole it does. A reflection on femininity, menstruation and fertility (or its lack thereof), this piece isn’t afraid to challenge and shock its audience, as well as be fairly silly and joyful at the same time.
It begins with a small woman crawling in on all fours, wearing nothing but a pair of high heels. She stands naked before us, and unceremoniously pulls a lipstick from her vagina, smears a gash of lurid red around her mouth, draws a line down to her thatch of pubic hair, and puts the lipstick back where it came from, before striding away. This very much sets the tone for the rest of the show, which doesn’t shy away from nudity, blood or difficult topics.
Doctor Carnesky ‘presents’ the show, tying the various scenes together with a lecture style presentation. This works up to a point, but towards the end it really stops serving its purpose and we might have been better off without it. Once you have seen a video of your lecturer bathing in blood, you can perhaps drop the formal style and meet your audience on more of a level.
It is interesting to be encouraged to reflect on menstruation, which is a taboo subject seldom talked about in much depth, even amongst women. This show highlights what a fascinating and vital part of life it is – with women’s cycles synchronising with one another, and with the rotations of the planet. Is our increasing disconnect with fertility and our periods (often due to birth control) reflected in our disconnect with the planet in general? Dr. Carnesky thinks it might be.
We are also confronted with the magic of fertility and the heartbreak of miscarriage and infertility. At one point, the daughter of one of the performers is brought onstage for an adorable cameo, in which she fishes a milky rabbit jelly out of her mother’s bra. Conceived (possibly) as a result of a magic ritual her mother performed, where she made a rabbit jelly from her menstrual blood, this was a symbolic and beautiful gesture, which made more than one audience member shed a tear.
The show also featured a trans woman’s perspective on menstruation. Rhyannon Styles, wasn’t mourning her inability to bear children, but wondered at the idea of what it is that makes you a ‘real woman’. Is it menstruation? Some haters would say so, but as she was placed in the magician’s box, sawn in half and put back together again, it was easy to see that these things come from within and blood isn’t everything.
This was, on the whole, a well performed, occasionally funny and interesting piece, where the self-styled ‘Menstronauts’ took us on a bloody journey from Southend-on-sea, through the cervix and beyond. The end, despite featuring a woman being lifted up by the hair, felt somewhat rushed and unfinished, and could have been a little more considered. However, on the whole it was an enjoyable and interesting evening that tackled periods with bare-faced confidence.