Originally conceived by experimental actress and spoken word poet Kate Joyner as a series of themed poems, taking us on a woman’s journey defined by and through menstruation. Written during a retreat over three successive moons, this ambitious work, aptly, had its UK premiere on International Women’s Day.
The audience is welcomed into the underground theatre to the strains of classic jazz. Joyner, in character as a comedy cockney witch, played here as a grotesque fortune-teller-like character serves us drinks in a macabre tea room. The fourth wall breaks, and over-familiar greetings teeter on the edge of awkward embarrassment, as we take our seats.
Dancing manically, twisting and turning, her fractured pirouettes shout a challenge to orthodoxy. She sprays tea around the stage, as she connects with the audience, demanding intimacy, requiring engagement. The tea is not what it seems, and Joyner winds us back to the dawn of time as she seeks to re-create what has become the false narrative of our world.
The self-contained poems merge into each other, linked by relentless sound, light and above all movement. This creates a powerful whole and the sensory overload is a necessary device to unsettle the audience, but takes away from the poetry itself. Sometimes less is more.
We see her in the garden of Eden, an absurdist and hilarious retelling of the whole snake and apple tale. She mocks the Disney princess trope, threatening litigation, and a young child’s search for the prince of her dreams.
We hear of a terrified young girl, her first bleed a thing of shame, castigated by her mother. A slave to a corrupted perception, told as a dance using a sheet of the darkest red linen. She channels David Attenborough, as we go on safari through the deep bush of the hidden valley and into the cave of wonders below.
The witch unravels, the surreal weaves in and out of the real and a new truth emerges, or rather a fresh and timely telling of an old truth. We see women’s sensual connection with nature, the conflated strength and vulnerability that has so often been treated as a threat and a weakness. There is a powerful final twist before the reborn woman emerges.
Joyner defines her femininity as a joyous and powerful thing but challenged by toxic male misconceptions and fear. Just for a moment, one glimpses that deeper truth, so vigorously repressed by the crushing weight of the contemporary narrative, the twisted, hateful, defensive so-called male values that we allow to dominate the world that we occupy.
Powerful, disturbing, compelling and beautiful. It’s a brave work from an artist who gives completely of herself.
Review by Thomas Laurence
The show closes in London on Sunday 10th but look for it at Brighton and Edinburgh fringes.
The Blood Tales is an experimental and empowering one-woman show which transports audiences into the mystical landscape of a woman’s blood through the lens of its narrator, a witty, funny and sensual witch who is not afraid to ‘tell it how it is’.
The show seeks to dispel the outdated views across the globe of shame, taboo and disgust towards women and their menstrual cycle.
Suitable for 18+ Contains nudity, swearing and adult themes. Duration 60 mins no interval.
Written and performed by Kate Joyner
Directed by Pamela Morena Greco
Produced by Danja Burchard for Silver Moon Theatre Co.
Chapel Playhouse Theatre
8th – 10th MARCH
308-312 Grays Inn Road, London WC1X 8DP