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Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman review at Soho Theatre, London – ‘bravery and glamour’

The cast of Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman at Soho Theatre, London
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Dr Carnesky’s Incredible Bleeding Woman is a feminist cabaret show that celebrates menstruation. One one hand it’s a courageous attempt to provoke and thrill, but the uneven tone renders it unsatisfying.

The show is performed by the Menstronauts, led by cabaret performer Marisa Carnesky. In the guise of Dr Carnesky she is both a coven leader and scientific researcher, a humorously professorial compere, resplendent in a chic blue skirt suit and a cape dripping with red sequins.

Each of the acts consists of a new ‘ritual’ of menstruation. Some of the acts are excellent; MisSa Blue, in an tiara of lit candles and a glimmering lamé skirt, has a baroque and witchy sword-swallowing set; Nao Nagai’s giant, two-faced, kimono-clad spirit is Lynchian in its delicious, rigorous strangeness; Fancy Chance’s finale, hanging by her hair from the ceiling, is jaw-dropping. But other acts, while beautifully costumed and clearly passionately conceived, are not as striking.

In between these sequences, Carnesky delivers lectures on the cultural history and artistic representation of menstruation. There is a distinctively eldritch aesthetic to the evening that clashes with the occasional bursts of humour. There is some nervous laughter. This also undermines the serious points the Menstronauts make about taboo. There’s a mixture of bravery and glamour here that’s heartening to see, but the political message of the piece gets lost as a result of its commitment to the mystical.

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A strange, sexy, bloody feminist cabaret let down by its confused framework