Wednesday 3 April 2019

Ovariacting: A Period Drama - Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Jamie Boiskin has the ultimate entrance for a cabaret about periods. Popping her head between a slit in a red curtain she eventually pushes herself out through the slit, to reveal a matching red coloured dress. Boiskin is a menstrual activist and in Ovariacting: A Period Drama, she is here to guide menstrual activist protégé Thomas (and the audience) on how to successfully graduate to becoming a fully-fledged menstrual activist. It’s a delightful (and educational) ‘vagourney’ in which the good, the bad and the bloody aspects of menstruation are discussed in a frank but amusing manner.

Boiskin covers many aspects to periods in this cabaret, but she ensures that the flow is paced just right to not overwhelm the audience with hard facts but also not to make the entire cabaret one big period joke. She is incredibly clever at finding the humour in something while making sure that its far-reaching effects are acknowledged. At one time she eulogises about the numerous pairs of underwear lost to menstrual battles; Boiskin may explore the comical side of living with endometriosis but she also makes clear the significant impact it has had on her life. At another point she lists various euphemisms used to describe 'that time of month'. Some are hilarious, some are disturbing, and some are simply offensive, but they highlight the perceptions that periods are something disgusting and gross and should not be talked about in public, particularly to men.

Musical Director, pianist and Protégé, Thomas Bradford brings the witty quips and one liners throughout the show and works well as the audience surrogate, asking the questions and saying the things we would say. His rapport with Boiskin is highly engaging and he skillfully supports her on the piano during her musical numbers. 

Ovariacting is littered with wonderful and surprising moments, especially with the use of backup dancers Alice Albon and Louise Cumming who are hysterically dressed as a uterus and a tampon. Albon is a standout as Laganja the uterus, suitably annoying and irritating as she gleefully points out the cysts and endo that she is filled with. Similarly, Cumming as the tampon is super chipper and always willing to lend a hand. Their ‘live’ demonstration of how a tampon works when a woman has her ‘Dolmio Day’ is a masterly touch.

Even with all the laughs, there is a serious tone to the show as Boiskin opens up about her struggles and frustrations with endo and polycystic ovarian syndrome. It’s telling when she mentions that one in ten women have endo yet when she asks the room of roughly 30 women if anyone has it, not a single hand is raised. There is clearly much work to be done for women to feel comfortable and confident enough to discuss their periods, and Ovariacting is one step closer in doing so. 

Ovariacting: A Period Drama is a bloody brilliant cabaret that straddles the line of entertainment and activism with flair. While it is full of great comedy, ridiculous costumes and fun songs, it remains a very personal and intelligent production that empowers women to talk about periods with their friends and partners.

Venue: The Butterfly Club, 5 Carson Place, Melbourne
Season: Until 7 April | 5:30pm
Length: 60 minutes 
Tickets: $34 Full | $30 Conc | $27 Tightarse Tuesday
Bookings: MICF website

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