Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman
Marisa Carnesky explains the surreal, beautiful, and bloody brilliant story behind Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman 🔴
Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman. Sarah Ainslie.
Photograph: Beatrice Brown.
A show all about menstruation, Incredible Bleeding Women is an all-out genre-bending spectacular featuring eclectic and diverse performers including Fancy Chance (comedienne, burlesque legend, hairhanger), Rhyannon Styles (trans activist, model and author), Missa Blue (super showwoman and sword swallower) Haitch Plewis (performance artist, mother, choreographer) Oh and me! Marisa Carnesky, academic, performer, visual theatre director and teacher.
A real smorgasbord of live art and new cabaret, magically mutating from a bizarre anthropology lecture to all-out feminist activist ritual, it was the Red Tent Movement that inspired the show, a movement where women get together to celebrate their cycles in a ritualistic way — as well as the rise in feminist activism and artworks about menstruation.
I wanted to fuse both themes together in a non-essentialist way, creating outdoor rituals on themes of cyclical rebirth and renewal in a group of very different people who identify with the pronoun, "she".
With the group, we created activist rituals with menstrual themes where we could "pop up" on the landscape doing surreal, beautiful, and bloody ritualistic actions that would confront the continued taboo which surrounds menstruation, as well as being something we could also do on marches to support feminist protests concerning the struggle for all kinds of health and reproductive women’s rights.
And so, two paths emerged. One, the touring of the show with our amazingly skilled cast and in which we each reveal (with high camp, horror tropes, circus tricks, and surrealist imagery) personal and moving stories about our bodies and experiences — from heavy periods, miscarriage, trans identity, birth, and birth control.
Then there's the activist side, and a group called The Menstronauts which is open to all who identify as women and non binary. We talk about this in the show, and from time to time, organise actions and go together in costumes to protests.
It takes a lot to organise the shows and tours — and also to organise the activism — The Menstronauts went on a break in recent months while I finished my PhD, but I hope to bring them back into action again soon, and to more encourage people to get involved and join us out on the streets! I believe it's really important that we continue to have a presence.
What’s exciting for me about all of this, is the way that theatre shows can influence street activism. Theatre shows can also be activism, and street protest can of course, be theatre!
From the PhD research I did into menstrual rituals and culture, it's thought that menstruation is so much more central to the formation of human culture than just being an uncomfortable hygiene issue.
In fact, looking at the research of people like the Radical Anthropology Group (RAG) it seems that menstruation itself may be the origin of all magic, of all human ritual, and indeed the origin of collective action and strike!
Groups of menstruating women have power that has been downplayed for centuries. Can we synchronise physically? Perhaps. But can we synchronise actions on a monthly basis? Now that really could change the world...
Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman is on tour across the UK from the 26 October (Lancaster) until the 24 November 2018 (London). For tickets visit carnesky.com/tour-dates. Follow Carnesky Productions on Twitter @CarneskyProds
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