#Tweetingit – 4**** funny, heartrending, thought provoking, troubling. Exactly like gynaecological issues are. Bravo!
I’ll start by nailing my colours to the mast. I am an old school, angry feminist who seethes every time talk about women’s biology is shut down for being disgusting, or private, or unladylike. This meant I was delighted when I heard about Baby Box – a humorous play focussing on endometriosis.
We need to be able to talk about our bodies, particularly when they aren’t functioning as they should, and humour and entertainment is a great way to facilitate this. Bravo to Laura McGrady for writing this play and huge kudos to The Kings Head Theatre for staging it as part of their Who Runs The World feminist season.
The play starts with the introduction of our protagonist, Chloe, through an explanation of what it is to be born female in the UK. We are immensely privileged, though fail to reach the pinnacle thereof due to the slight issue of being born with a tiny womb of our own. We are told that your womb won’t define you, and indeed it shouldn’t, but we know that it will.
We were taken through a number of the rites of passage of all women when they start menstruating. The stained sheets, the Dr Google remedies for period pains (how I wish there had been Dr Google when I was young, rather than matron telling us to go for a walk), Chloe’s sister bleeding through onto her skirt at school as she wasn’t allowed to leave class to go to the loo. I had hoped that these experiences would be confined to the past but, as we saw in the news this week in Chicago, many schools do not allow young women the dignity of being allowed to deal with their periods. I am forever grateful that I was at a girls’ school and we wore navy blue skirts.
The scenes where we learn about Chloe’s gynaecological issues draw away from the humour into more visceral, more distressing emotions. The insinuations that she’s attention seeking or skiving school were truly belittling. Chloe describes how her endometriosis affects sex for her in one of the most uncomfortable scenes I’ve seen in a long while. It was hugely powerful and conversation provoking, particularly (I think) for the men in the audience.
The culmination of the gynaecological problems is an emergency hysterectomy, and afterwards, we see her deal with the very real issues of losing her fertility, and how that affects her identity. As someone who had a hysterectomy much later in life, I know how true these feelings are, and the empathy shown for women who struggle with themselves (in spite of the freedom of not being struck down with debilitating pain) after such surgery was poignant and heartfelt.
From here the play went a little into left field, exploring more family issues between Chloe, her sister and her parents. I felt it jarred somewhat with what came before and made me think that Coco Chanel’s advice of “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take one thing off” can be applied to theatre. It left me confused as to what the message of the play really was.
I cannot express enough how grateful I am that plays like this are being written and performed and that we are talking about endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids, painful periods and more without shame and with humour. Let’s hope that the medical profession catches on and starts taking us seriously and treating us promptly. I think plays like this open the door to that happening. If you have a chance this week, do go and see this.
Baby Box is at The Kings Head Theatre, Islington until 6 May 2018.