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A Bloody Shambles is a twenty-minute audio piece written and narrated by Ella Dorman-Gajic. It is about a young woman, Jess, who is struggling with the impact of period poverty and her tumultuous relationship with her mother.
At the beginning of the piece, Jess wakes up in an unfamiliar bed and feels the horribly familiar sensation of blood coating your inner thighs and the sheets – a feeling that people who menstruate know only too well. No matter how prepared you think you are, sometimes you are caught off guard. Jess then faces the embarrassment of this not being her bed and having to try and wash the bloodied sheets before anyone sees. Yet another familiar situation.
However, for me, the similarities end there. Jess is living independently due to a tumultuous relationship with her mother and her mother’s unwelcoming boyfriend. This is the sort of man who ignorantly asks Jess if she can just ‘put a plaster’ on her period. In an environment so hostile and uncomprehending of this human bodily function, Jess feels ashamed. This is only worsened by the fact that she does not have enough money for sanitary products – which are extortionately expensive.
Jess, in desperation, fills the need for sanitary products with a sock and later a used fish and chip packet. The latter an all too real example of makeshift sanitary products and Jess contemplates what type of fish might have been in the packet prior to the blood that is pouring out of her. Heading to a local food bank she hunts for donations only to be told that they ran out earlier that day. A stark reality for many people in the UK.
Dorman-Gajic’s piece is a vital insight into the trauma that accompanies being unable to sanitarily cope with what is, for around half the population, a monthly experience. At just twenty minutes, this is a short snapshot of our character Jess, and I feel that a slightly longer format would have allowed for more connection with her as an individual. Perhaps, however, it is useful to see her as less nuanced and therefore depict the commonality of the experience to people who menstruate.
It is incredibly refreshing to listen to a piece that so candidly depicts menstruation and the taboos around dealing with this. Bloodied sheets, underwear, and clothing are commonplace and Dorman-Gajic depicts this commonality whilst also exposing the story of a woman who on top of this can’t afford to hygienically cope. This piece gives a voice to so many in the UK and makes me reflect on how I can do more to help as someone with the shared experience of menstruation, but the privilege of financial and emotional security.
A Bloody Shambles is available to listen to until 22 February. For more information and tickets, see the production’s website. 40% of ticket sales will go to Bloody Good Period, a charity combatting period poverty.