The Blood Tales
Reviewed – 8th March 2019
“had all the ingredients conceptually, but the reality of the production was overshadowed by the bizarre theatrical components of the performance”
On International Women’s Day, a group of powerful women (and one man) began their journey from the spacious bar of Chapel Playhouse into the basement where The Blood Tales awaited. The promise of being transported ‘into the mystical landscape of a woman’ was present in our minds as we walked together down the industrial staircase into the darkly lit cave of the theatre. It seems important to place some context upon the evening, since the performance promised to touch upon the very pressing issue of the female blood cycle. There are around ‘Two billion women of menstruating age around the world’, with ‘137,700 children in the UK having missed school because of period poverty.’ With these facts looming in our minds, and with a predominantly female audience waiting, there couldn’t have been a better night for this experimental one-woman show.
However, ‘The Blood Tales,’ performed and written by Kate Joyner and directed by Palma Morena Greco lost its meaning at times to the obscurity of the performance. That isn’t to say that all meaning was lost, as Joyner did at times delve beautifully into the topic at hand, communicating through her richly descriptive and onomatopoeic language the natural movement of blood in a woman’s body. In particular, her repetition of ‘the time’ in one poem created a great rhythm that complemented her undulating movements. Her poetry touched upon some interesting topics; including the role Disney plays in poisoning young women’s minds into believing there is a prince for everyone. This was a really effective inclusion, and I wanted her to do more with it, to explicitly challenge societal views of menstruation by confidently calling them out.
The performance comes with the built in assumption that the audience already knows a lot about Kate Joyner. The show was accompanied by traditional Spanish music, which unfortunately failed to offer anything to the poetry, since there was no obvious connection between the two. Furthermore, the transition in and out of sections felt fumbling and unpracticed. Joyner often interrupted her own performance, using the presence of another personality to interject intense and indulgent moments. At times the interruption worked well, as it pulled her from some intensely erratic moments, which could be quite uncomfortable at times.
The piece had all the ingredients conceptually, but the reality of the production was overshadowed by the bizarre theatrical components of the performance. A lot of the production needed explaining afterwards, as some of the props didn’t translate to the audience. Instead of developing and exploring the interesting and current points raised, our attention was often buried amongst scenes of drinking blood and smoking cigarettes. Her aim of bringing us closer to this taboo subject unfortunately had the opposite effect at times, as her portrayal of the female menstruation cycle seemed quite foreign and untouchable.
Reviewed by Maddie Stephenson
The Blood Tales
Chapel Playhouse until 10th March
Previously reviewed at this venue: