Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Dr Carnesky's incredible bleeding Dramaturgy: Marisa Carnesky @ Edfringe 2017

Its time to reverse the curse! Because the revolution will be menstrual!

1970s horror meets 2020 feminist activism as Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman paints Edinburgh red

Putting the magic back into menstruation, showwoman and artist Marisa Carnesky reinvents menstrual rituals for a new era drawing on the hidden power of a forgotten matriarchal past. She is joined by amazingly skilled stars of the UK's alt cabaret scene - an eclectic group of women performers aka The Menstronauts who combine activism, art, humour and stagecraft. Delivered with a tongue in cheek reverence, the show mutates from a curious ladylike lecture into a glam 1970s magic show and finally into a spectacular 2020 feminist activist ritual.

Referencing representations of women and blood from ancient mythological deities and traditional human cultures to classic horror movies, here menstruation takes centre stage in a profound exploration into what it means to be ‘female’. Issues around fertility, body shame, taboo and lost ancient herstories are scrutinised, politicised & reclaimed.

With a potent brew of horror and parody The Menstronauts perform mind blowing menstrual rituals utilising all manner of skills, tricks and props from hair hanging, a sawing in half illusion, sword swallowing, gushes of strawberry jelly, floods of theatrical blood, spurts of red lipstick and an unstoppable flow of sheer heart and soul. Starring Marisa Carnesky, Fancy Chance, Rhyannon Styles, MisSa Blue, H Plewis, Sula Marjorie Plewis Robin and Nao Nagai.

What was the inspiration for this performance? 

It stemmed from my (Marisa Carnesky) research into menstrual rituals for my PhD at Middlesex University. I gathered some amazing women performers from the cabaret scene I knew together and asked them to reinvent menstrual rituals and create some menstrual activism with me. The show is the result.

As a group of women we were all going through different challenges to do with our bodies, from  miscarriage, infertility, childhood body shame, transitioning gender and childbirth. We wanted to explore new ways to mark and represent these experiences through performance and ritual.

Is performance still a good space for the public discussion of ideas? 

We have found it to be really important and effective to bring a live show that really connects and touches people with issues that we face around our bodies. Because we are live people experience the show communally together and the shared energy in the audiences reactions can create poignant and cathartic group reactions, as well as all the fun of being at a spectacular circus show.

How did you go about gathering the team for it?

I had been working with these artists in a number of projects through the east London alternative cabaret and live art scenes. We have worked together on a number of projects including our Ghost Train ride show that was in Blackpool and a rollerskating spectacle for the Cultural Olympiad based on the tarot.

How did you become interested in making performance?

I trained as a ballet dancer and then discovered the avant garde, punk rock and magic! I love creating performance, devising it, teaching it, performing it! I live and breathe it now for over 25 years and yet this is the first time I have brought one of my own productions the Edinburgh so I am excited to see how it is recieved!

Is there any particular approach to the making of the show?

We did an amazing experiment in this project where we only created the acts on the dark of the moon on the beach every month for three months on special performance retreats at the Metal artists residency house in Southend….its witchy stuff indeed! 

Then we got together for one week at the National Theatre Studios and pulled the material together. We further developed it by continuing to meet every dark moon and creating activist performance events and connecting with womens marches and campaigns.

Does the show fit with your usual productions?

None of my productions are usual…they are all unique investigations into ritual, gender, politics, spectacle and what makes us human…. From an arthouse Ghost Train in Blackpool about immigration and disappearance to a rollerskating psychedelic spectacle about the tarot and collective change we try to meld performance forms, popular and high culture, political issues and visions of the conscious and unconscious experience.

What do you hope that the audience will experience?

We hope they will think about menstruation in a new light, be informed by the real research, entertained by our spectacle, showwomanship and humour and moved by our personal journeys.

What strategies did you consider towards shaping this audience experience? 

We think its important to address the shame long associated with the female bodilly cycle but we want to do that and make work that is both entertaining, current, knowing enough for contemporary audiences and speaks to a diverse mixture of people from different walks of life and experience. 

The material is both fun and popular in style but also serious and arty. We are activists and we are here to act and use everything we have in our box of tricks to create experiences that speak to people and move them.  

Collectively the group devised the ritual performances by meeting every dark moon at Metal in Southend over the course of three months. Through a process of performance making, spell casting, dream diaries and cathartic sharing, the cabaret performance came together embodying the diverse lived experiences of menstruation in the group; from physical pain, fertility, , miscarriage, transgender identity, menopause and religious ritual.

Described as the High Priestess of Cabaret, Marisa Carnesky is the Creative Director of Carnesky Productions, a theatre company responsible for highly original large and small scale interactive performance works. Previous projects include Carnesky’s Ghost Train (2004-2014) and alternative stage school Carnesky’s Finishing School, which just completed a residency in the old Foyles building in Soho (August 2016 - January 2017). Carnesky Productions is interested in the use of spectacle, magic illusions and grand ritual as a means of creating highly accessible provocative work rooted in popular culture to promote cultural and political discourse.

Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman is the end result of Marisa Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman research project which she has completed as part of her PhD at Middlesex University.

Listings information:
Dr Carnesky's Incredible Bleeding Woman (16+)
Venue: Pleasance
Dates & Times: 14.00 2 – 28 August (not 9, 21)  
Tickets: Previews 2, 3, 4: £7.30,
5, 6,9,10,16,17, 23, 24: £10.80 (£9.80 conc)
7,11,12,13,18,19, 20, 25, 26: £13.80 (£12.80 conc) 7 & 8 are on 2for1 offer
Box Office: 0131 556 6550 or 0131 226 0026 online at:  or

Connect with Carnesky Productions on Twitter: @CarneskyProds #Bleedingwoman Facebook: The Menstronauts, and online at:

Become a menstrual activist. The Menstronauts are a menstrually identified activist group inspired by Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman and The Radical Anthroplogy Group. They aim to raise awareness of the importance of the cycle and global issues relating to women’s bodies and their menstrual rights. You too can take part and reclaim the importance of your menstrual cycle through the power of ritual activism! Find The Menstronauts on Facebook.

Cast and Creative Credts:


Veronica Thompson aka Fancy Chance

performs regularly in the cabaret, variety, burlesque, live-art and circus communities. She was crowned Alternative Miss World in 2009 and London's Top Tranny in 2010. She will be performing her solo show 'Flights of Fancy' at the Soho Theatre in April 2017. She is also one of the few active hair hangers in the UK.

Rhyannon Styles has been a Carnesky company member since 2008 performing in

Carnesky’s Ghost Train and Carnesky’s Tarot Drome. Styles is a journalist and is currently Elle Magazine’s first trans columnist and her memoir ‘The New Girl’ will be published in July 2017.

H Plewis has worked as a performer and choreographer with Carnesky Productions since

2008. She is also associated with Duckie, collaborating with the collective for over a decade,

currently on The Posh Club and PC/DC. An all round live artist specialising in

dance, H has worked across many contexts, most recently motherhood.

Sula Majorie Plewis Robin is the

youngest Menstruant. An early arrival weighing less than a bag of

sugar, she is now almost standing on her two chunky legs. She likes the milk of human

kindness and Notorious B.I.G.

Nao Nagai is a London based Japanese artist who immigrated to the UK at the age of 15. She

has worked with postmodern pop performance pranksters Frank Chickens (winner of Foster’s

Comedy God Awards 2010) and has devised and performed in shows by Hey Ho Ha. She

trained as a Lighting Designer and has worked in diverse genres from cabaret - Copyright

Christmas (Duckie) to Opera - Madama Butterfly (Grimebourne), touring nationally and


MisSa Blue is a renowned international performer who has been working on the circus/

sideshow and burlesque circuits since 2011. MisSa thrills audiences with dangerous stunts; a

femme fatale who blurs the lines between high end entertainment and performance art. She

performs at many international burlesque festivals and regularly headlines gigs all around the



Assistant Director

Florence Peak is a London-based artist who has been making work since 1995.

With an extensive training in dance and a background in painting, Florence Peake's performance practice uses drawing, painting and sculpture materials combined with found and fabricated objects placed in relationship to the moving body. Site and audience, live and recorded text, wit and humour are key to her work.


Kira O’Reilly is an artist currently leading a new MA pilot in Ecology and Contemporary Art in Helsinki. Her practice, both wilfully interdisciplinary and entirely undisciplined, stems from a visual art background; it employs performance, biotechnical practices and writing with which to consider speculative reconfigurations around The Body.

Lighting Designer

Marty Langthorne is a Lighting Designer for theatre Live art and Dance. He studied at The National Institute of Dramatic Art (NIDA) graduating in 2000. From 2001-2005 he was Production Manager for Performing Lines which took him outside Australia for the first time. Touring internationally with William Yang brought him to London and in 2005 he decided to move there. Always interested in experimental work, he became involved in the London live art community. He was a member of Pacitti Company and Production managed their SPILL Festival.

Costume Designer

Claire Ashley is a London based costume designer who runs a studio offering bespoke costumes and clothing, from metamorphic and vintage inspired costumes to bridal and tailoring.

Magic Consultant

Tom Cassani is a graduate of Carnesky’s Finishing School where Marisa Carnesky runs one week crash courses in solo performance. Trained in sleight of hand, misdirection and prestidigitation, Tom now uses these skills of deceit as an artistic framework to explore truth, honesty, manipulation and fabrication through performance art.

Carnesky Productions – A brief herstory

2000-2002 Jewess Tattooess national and international tour including BAC, Arnolfini, Los Angeles International Festival

2002-2004 The Girl From Nowhere national and International tour including Riverside Studios and Anti festival Finland

2004-2014 Carneskys Ghost Train London, national touring including Glastonbury, European tour in Belgium, residency for 5 years on Blackpools Golden Mile

2007 Magic War , Soho Thetare and touring nationally and internationally including City of Women Slovenia, Les Halles Brussels and Red Cat In Los Angeles

2012 -2014 Carneskys Tarot Drome for the Cultural Olympiad, Old Vic Tunnels and touring to festivals nationally and in Europe including Latitude and Cirque De Jules Vernes France.

2009 ongoing Carnesky’s Finishing School at various locations including 2 year residency at The Roundhouse, touring summer festivals and residency at old Foyles building Soho, October 2016 –January 2017

2015 premiere of work in progress National Theatre Studios and Duckie Dr Carneskys Incredible Bleeding Woman (DCIBW)

2016 DCIBW at UCL for International Women’s Day and Soho Theatre

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