Sydney, Sydney Fringe Festival 2014

The Period Project, SSF 2014

0 Comments 21 September 2014

If plays were judged by their name, then The Period Project would be a performance avoided like the plague. For some women periods are a rite of passage, but for others they are just a bloody nuisance. However, most women (and men) agree that that aunty flow is not a welcome topic of polite conversation. It is for their very taboo nature, that four girls from Newcastle conducted over 100 surveys and turned their findings into a brilliant and beautiful musical comedy.

The exaggerated femininity of the costuming and choreography prove crucial to the challenge that The Period Project presents in highlighting our abhorrence to women’s need to bleed. Dolled up like perfect housewives in floral dresses and victory rolls, the girls alternate between brutal reenactments of period problems and hilarious harmonies about their monthly visitor. Rachel Davies, Erin Sattler, Tina Cornac and Tayla Choice, alumni from the Regional Institute of Performing Arts (RIPA), reworked their original stage play for the Sydney Fringe Festival. By adding in elements of sparkle, dance and drama they recite verbatim dialogue from the survey responses to encapsulate commonalities like chocolate binges, beastly bloating and hormonal hell that comes with periods. 

The flow of the performance is arranged around the questions and responses from their survey – each culminating with a chorus of overlapping lines. Many stories are met with knowing nods and laughter from the audience. Others generate gasps. Tales of ‘applicators’being stuck up your ‘hoo ha’ and women declaring that getting their period means “now they can get raped”are on the more controversial and shocking end of the spectrum of experience. While the choice of tales seem repetitious, the effect of saying similar experiences reinforces the normality of women’s menstrual symptoms across age and stage.

With each act the girls maintain Stepford wife composure in both stance and voice. Their energy is infectious as they bounce off each others lines and deliver their own. The musical numbers are a glimmering highlight, especially a rollicking rewrite of Dean Martin’s ‘That’s Amore’to capture the painful and insane realm of periods. The poignancy of the real testimonies offers great insight into the ridiculousness of gender stereotypes and the oppression of women’s bodies. Even in imagining a parallel universe of menstruation, the audience is forced to contemplate menopause – “goodbye another egg”, and the double standards – “if men had periods there would be a monthly rostered day off”. Why should blood from a vagina be any dirtier than blood from anywhere else? The more stories you hear, the more you question why every 30 days half the population are expected to suffer in silence. 

The Period Project may not be a show to watch over dinner but it is a pretty and playful way of challenging ‘pre-conceived ideas of menstruation’.

Reviewed by Eliza Berlage

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