Review | Laura Money
A lot of literature has been devoted to the human body and its many ailments and inner workings, yet there is a surprising lack of theatrical explorations of menstruation – until now. In a post #metoo era,’ period pieces’ have become de rigueur and exposing the truth about periods, destigmatising them and the pain associated is particularly timely. Tackling this topic head on is Tempest Theatre, a feminist theatre company that makes theatre for women, by women, and about women. The Communists Are In The Funhouse – a euphemism for menstruation – takes a topic made taboo by the patriarchal society we all suffer in and brings it to the fore. It boldly highlights the contradictions and hipocrasy surrounding periods, allows women to tell their stories freely, and shines a light on the dangers of a lack of medical education.
As comedic as this topic can be (let’s be honest, any show about bodily functions is going to have a few hilarious moments!) the ensemble cast provide a more subtle approach to humour and some beautifully poignant moments, beginning with a stunning piece of interpretive dance by Maxine Singh set to Samuel Barber’s hauntingly beautiful ‘Adagio For Strings.’ It takes the beauty of the moment – that transition from girl to woman but has an underlining uneasiness, we all know what happens when girls become sexualised. The devised work is part video presentation, part monologues, part stories, part history lesson, part silliness, and all important. Personally, I think too much is going on – it would have been nice to pare it back and pick one focus but conversely that confusion of everything assaulting your senses sits firmly within women’s lived experiences of menstruation.
Tempest Theatre are keenly aware that the voices in The Communists Are In The Funhouse do not encompass every femme-identifying person and this is one of their greatest strengths – the show comes from the performer’s hearts. The strongest voices in art are those of the artists’ and this is well demonstrated as each ensemble member has a moment. Angela Mahlatje brings an embarrassing story about staining a white couch with her colloquial style that sounds like a girlfriend about to spill the tea. Sankari Sivaramlingam tells the heartfelt story of religious attitudes towards women’s bodies, and Nefeli Perdekouli discusses the callous nature of medical professionals and privacy. Keeping all of this held together is Dawn Farnham an mc-cum-ringmaster-cum-narrator, dropping in with horrible historical facts regarding women’s bodies and hysteria.
Possibly the strongest voices come from Amy Welsh who, despite her stand-up comedy routine deriving mostly from BuzzFeed style listicles, provides an insight into how stupidly we trivialise a damn serious medical condition that effects half of our population. The other voice who is a delight to watch is that of Sabrina Seconi – her story of getting her first period and having to awkwardly tell every single family member is bittersweet. It will literally take every single woman crashing back to the awkwardness felt and the thrill of aging only felt for a very small amount of time – way before we all want to halt the aging process.
The Communists Are In The Funhouse is a well-constructed devised work that explores a delicate subject in a beautiful and intimate way. The ensemble open up and are very giving with their performances, and add new voices that are shining a spotlight on women’s experiences. Not only does it achieve all of this, it might make the women in the crowd realise that their pain is legitimate. That their experiences are shared and the men in the audience to also realise the pain that women undergo is legitimate – and that’s a very commendable message to communicate.
WHEN: 4 – 8 June 2019 | 7:30pm
WHERE: Subiaco Arts Centre | Subiaco
INFO: Tickets $25 – $36 | Duration 75 mins | Recommended 15+ | Coarse language, nudity, haze effects, loud noises, flashing lights, explicit medical imagery, adult themes