28 DAYS: A Period Piece

BATS Theatre, Wellington

19/02/2015 - 22/02/2015

NZ Fringe Festival 2015 [reviewing supported by WCC]

Production Details

New comedy show celebrates menstruation  

Discharge Comedy Collective will discuss and celebrate menstruation with its new show, 28 Days: A Period Piece, premiering at BATS Theatre as part of the 2015 NZ Fringe Festival on 19 February. 

Writer Abby Howells says that although menstruation affects a large proportion of the population, there is still a harmful stigma around it. “Especially amongst young people there is this expectation that you need to be ashamed of your period, that you shouldn’t talk about it. We want to talk about it.” 

Kate Schrader, who will star in the show, adds that there is a stereotype of female comedians always talking about periods. “It’s a harmful and untrue stereotype and it serves to limit what female comedians can talk about onstage for fear of the communal eye-roll from the audience,” Kate says. “We just thought, screw the stereotype – let’s embrace it.”

Director Caitlin McNaughton says that the collective also hopes to challenge some myths about menstruation, starting with the name of the show. “Actually, the 28 day cycle thing is a myth. Cycles vary greatly between people who get periods.” 

The show is set at the final dress rehearsal for “28 Days”, a fictional show about menstruation that will tour around New Zealand schools. Less than impressed with the show’s misinformed content, the women performing it decide to devise a new show based on their own experiences with periods.

28 Days: A Period Piece” is Discharge’s third show about making a show. “What is this, Woman’s Hour?” which won Best Comedy in the 2013 Dunedin Fringe Festival and was nominated for Best Comedy in the 2014 NZ Fringe Festival, focused on a comedy collective writing a sketch show. “Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die”, which enjoyed a sell-out season at BATS Theatre in June 2014, was about three women devising a show for their favourite actor in the hope that he would fall in love with them. 

Abby says that the self-referential structure allows them to take an idea and then deconstruct and examine it. “We start with all the bad stuff, and the characters get to discover what’s wrong with it alongside the audience. It also allows us to make fun of ourselves a bit.”

Although the show’s structure is familiar, “28 Days: A Period Piece” will be the collective’s first venture into musical comedy.

Caitlin says the show will contain at least three musical numbers. “We’ve been toying with the idea of doing musical comedy for a while now and the NZ Fringe Festival seemed like the perfect time to try it,” she says. “Fringe is all about taking risks and pushing your own boundaries as well as your audience’s. We’re really embracing that this time around.”

28 Days: A Period Piece” is on at
BATS Theatre at 9pm
from 19 – 22 February.
A$18.00 | C/Stu$14.00 | FA$12.00 
Book tickets online at bats.co.nz.

What the reviews said:

“Lively and unpretentious … ” (“What is this, Woman’s Hour?”, Theatreview)

“An hour of hugely carried short and sharp laugh-so-hard-you’ll-piss-your-pants type sketches … ” (“What is this, Woman’s Hour?”, Theatreview)

“Laugh-out-loud…highly entertaining character-based comedy … ” (“Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die”, Theatreview)

“The audience roared its approval throughout … ” (“Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die”, The Dominion Post)

Abby Howells
Josephine Byrnes
Harriet Hughes
Kate Schrader
Rosie Howells
Sasha Borissenko

Lighting Design & Tech Operation: Alex Wilson
Costume Deaign: Helen Mackenzie

Theatre , Musical , Comedy ,


Saved by energy and honesty

Review by Ewen Coleman [Reproduced with permission of Fairfax Media] 02nd Mar 2015

From flatulence to menstruation, Bats Theatre this week is presenting plays which people would normally shy away from. 

Which is exactly the premise behind Discharge’s production, 28 Days: a period piece.  Six women are presenting a theatre-in-education show about the menstrual cycle, in particular periods. However some of the group decide that they shouldn’t propagate the many myths that surround women and their periods but present personnel stories of their own.  From here through songs and dialogue each shows what they have in mind and through which the audience learns about the diversity of menstruation.

There was much humour in the show – once a month my knickers look like the Japanese flag – and some inventive and original scenes, like acting out the shedding of the ovarian egg and being on trial for menstruating.  But others like Sasha’s reasonably competent tap dance routine seemed to have little relevance to the overall concept of the show.

And while the acting wasn’t great – shouting lines and gesticulating wildly is not acting – and the singing mediocre, the show was performed with lots of energy and flowed seamlessly from scene to scene.  And the cast did know their subject matter and while having a lot of fun with it also showed a genuine honesty about what they were presenting.


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Rap, tap and flap delivers the message

Review by John Smythe 20th Feb 2015

I have to confess those of us of ‘a certain age’ laughed and rolled our eyes on discovering a women’s theatre group was doing a Fringe show about periods. When women’s theatre bestrode the stages of the western world back in the 1970s, this quickly became perceived as the cliché topic – largely by detractors of feminist theatre, it has to be said. Subsequent shows were at pains to point out they had moved on from all that supposed stereotype. 

Well this is what Kate Schrader, actor and publicist, has to say about that: “It’s a harmful and untrue stereotype and it serves to limit what female comedians can talk about onstage for fear of the communal eye-roll from the audience.  We just thought, screw the stereotype – let’s embrace it.” 

Besides, this is a whole new generation in a brand new century of greater awareness and more compassionate sensibilities. And it is Wellington’s Dunedin-born Discharge making the show – in the wake of What Is This, Women’s Hour? (2013); Benedict Cumberbatch Must Die and Mary’s Christmas (2014). And one of the things that hasn’t changed is what my generation used to call ‘The Curse’.

As we have come to expect from Discharge, there is perceptive wit and subtle satire within their happy, smiley ‘it’s a musical comedy!’ presentation. Most importantly there is recognition that menstruation can affect women very differently.

Abbey Howells’ script is predicated on the idea that Discharge is being paid by ‘The Board of Directors’ to present a theatre-in-education show about periods which perpetuates many myths, assumes it’s the same for everyone and takes an overall “it happens, get over it” position – but hey, “the people with the money always make the right creative decisions!” Oh yes: that gets a big laugh from the opening night audience at Bats Theatre.  

The central dramatic conflict, then, becomes whether to go with the status quo flow or create something new according to the personal experiences of the six cast members – who, a programme note acknowledges, are “a sample group that is not hugely diverse. This is just one tiny snippet of the huuuge menstruation conversation.”  

Intriguingly Abbey casts herself as the most resistant to change while Rosie Howells delivers a rap to let it be known, “When I’m on the rag I feel like shit.” Josephine Byrnes, in her Otago University sweat shirt, is intent on imparting scientific facts, even if they are not entertaining (which they actually turn out to be).

Harriet Hughes wants to promulgate her blood-thirsty Count Flapula idea while Kate Schrader sees an opportunity to showcase her tap dancing skills because Sasha Borissenko has not turned up to this ‘rehearsal’. But when Sasha does appear … Suffice to say one of the six song ’n’ dance numbers is ‘What’s Tappening to Me?’ 

As directed by Caitlin McNaughton, there is pleasing rhythm and flow, abetted by Helen Mackenzie’s festive array of costumes and Alex Wilson’s lighting (although often the actors need to step forward half a pace to get the top of their heads out of shadow).

The final court case, clearly inspired by the Salem Witch Trials and/or Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is, well, inspired. Amid all the song, dance – rap, tap and flap – the intended message is clearly delivered with infectious humour.

Another feel-good show from Discharge.


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