Blood, Glorious Blood! wastes no time being shy about its subject.
This is a ‘Period drama’ in the most literal sense – It’s an hour dedicated to all things menstruation. Creator Annabelszki laughs at the idea of stigma, delving into both her own experiences and those of women and people who menstruate all over the world.
The topic supersedes genre as the show somersaults into all sorts of forms – using multimedia for comedy, poetry, and audience interaction, while also at times feeling like a historical lecture, as it explains different attitudes to menstruation throughout human history, from antiquity right up to the present day.
Sometimes this range of styles has benefits – the opening where Annabelszki covers the history of menstrual sanitation products while also removing excess layers of underwear (revealing sanitary pads within) is great fun, while also being enlightening. Some parts do drag on a little though – there is an extended sequence where Annabelszki plays a social media influencer selling her period friendly onesie. This section feels grating and doesn’t mesh well with the show’s more serious elements. Instead, it makes us wish that the exciting first sequence was prolonged, since it contains a barrage of information (and knickers) that come at the audience in quick succession. Some extra time to slow this beginning down would have been beneficial.
Despite this, there are several highlights scattered throughout Blood, Glorious Blood! The interactivity works well at various points and definitely has the whole audience playing along by the end (a particular moment with shots standing in for menstrual flow is inspired). A video segment covering the barbaric treatment of Nepalese women is keenly sobering and speaks to how some of the world’s attitudes towards menstruation, and women, are still very much rooted in the past – the same past that this show wilfully lambasts.
A section where Annabelzski creates poems discussing her teen embarrassment around periods is another strong point. It’s funny, human, and relatable, while also serving as a refreshing counter to priapic equivalents from the male perspective.
Being able to balance this frivolity with tragic experiences from people who menstruate globally is difficult, and the fact that Annabelzski manages to do it at all is impressive. But there are times when she changes tone too quickly for the audience, and that may explain why some of the jokes fall a little flat. We are still digesting horror stories and crass representations of menstruation, while Annabelszki is already hurtling into stand-up material.
There is an enormous amount to like in Blood, Glorious Blood! It’s full of great individual moments, and is an important work as whole – something that is ready to completely undermine any stigma attached to periods and instead laugh until everyone else joins in. But there is also a sense that there’s too much going on, and we’re trying to cover a lot of ground – perhaps focusing either on a larger, historical scale, or a smaller, more personal level would have produced a tighter, more impactful show.
Blood, Glorious Blood! streamed as part of the Brighton Fringe until 1 November, for more information see the Brighton Fringe website.