Blog: Marisa Carnesky

The academic and actor on Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman, about the taboo of menstruation and revealing the magic of human cyclical renewal

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Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman is a new show from my theatre company Carnesky Productions, an all-out genre-bending spectacular featuring eclectic and diverse performers – Fancy Chance (comedienne, burlesque legend, hairhanger), Rhyannon Styles (trans activist, model and author), Missa Blue (super showgirl and sword swallower), Haitch Plewis (performance artist, mother, choreographer), oh, and me! Marisa Carnesky, academic, actress, visual theatre director and teacher. It is a smorgasbord of live art and new cabaret, magically mutating from a bizarre anthropology lecture to an all-out feminist activist ritual.

In 2008 I brought my Ghost Train project to Blackpool for what turned out to be a five-year residency on the Golden Mile. As a little girl I remember my grandparents, born from Eastern European immigrants, taking holidays in St Anne’s, which was the highlight of their year as working-class Jewish East Enders. It felt symbolic and powerful that I should return with a Ghost Ride that was about the stories of migration and disappeared people between East and West. It felt powerful that the project was situated next to the beauty of the Frank Matcham buildings, like the Tower Circus and the thrill of British seaside entertainment traditions that my grandparents would have enjoyed.

“I wanted to make a work looking at the taboo of menstruation in our culture and its more sacred and mythological representations.”

The ride featured live performers, magic illusions, vintage costumes, choreography, moving carriages, shocks and thrills in the dark, all in the context of a moving story of immigration and treacherous journeys between borders, between geography and between eras. The audience got into little carriages and were shunted around the track, meeting the characters and witnessing installations and scenes of haunted trains and stations at night and between worlds. It was scary, yes, but it was emotionally powerful. I like to say it was truly an emotional rollercoaster!

When I made my new work, Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman, which continues my fascination with the horror genre and feminism, I wanted to make a work again that was political from a left wing perspective, looking at the power of the collective and the women’s movement, looking at the taboo of menstruation in our culture and its more sacred and mythological representations that have become disempowered, made invisible, made into just a hygiene issue and filled with shame. I wanted to mix the theatricality I love so much of traditional variety entertainments, like magic illusion and spectacular revue shows, with the real lived stories of women today. I wanted to make something emotional, meaningful but entertaining and beautiful.

As I bring this show to Lancaster to try to in some way to reverse the curse we have laid on women’s bodies and their bodily cycles I think of stories of the Pendle Witches and their persecution and murder. I think of all women through time and to this day around the world who have been shamed by misogyny and patriarchy just for being women. As we celebrated the centenary of women’s suffrage this year my company and I are very happy and proud to bring you our latest cultural offering of our original production, Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman, part of the 2018 Free Bleeders Tour. We hope you are moved and inspired. We hope you enjoy.

Love Marisa x

Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman is at Nuffield Theatre, Lancaster, 26 October

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