Katy Jalili performing ‘Menstrulogue’ at Herstory N16 Theatre.
Seeing a friend perform is often like seeing a second version of that person—a doppelgänger or apparition of the person you know and like—taking over. There are glimpses of the familiar, but more typical is the experience of witnessing a kind of transformation on stage. A privileged sighting of inner thoughts, feelings, and actions suddenly pulled out in a public space.
This was certainly true when I saw Katy Jalili perform ‘Menstrulogue’, at Herstory 2, on a Saturday night.
The grand finale of the night, they came out yelling (literally) at the audience. Handing out a self-portrait to a man on her left, and a portrait of a woman on their right, Katy quickly claimed the stage as their space—their domain—so that when they occasionally engaged directly with an audience member it was all the more powerful (and perhaps all the more surprising). What we witnessed was in many ways inherently ‘private’ in subject matter, and yet Katy’s performance was a conscious attempt to make the private public. To speak about subject matter that might be seen as ‘taboo’—but even more than speak. To perform these subjects. To inhabit them.
“It’s not feminine to tell him I’m trying to be feminine.” (Katy Jalili)
Katy’s piece was very visceral. Binary ‘norms’ of beauty, femininity, and ‘womanhood’ were acknowledged and then subverted through the bold performance. They covered themself in red-blood paint and tried to scrub their clothes clean of these ‘stains’. They poured white yogurt over their body while describing the porcelain-skinned English rose. And poured pills all around the floor while sardonically reading a pamphlet on the potential side effects that can result from this prescribed ‘cure’ for anxiety and depression.
Their performance was also a way of visualising struggles that can sometimes be so deeply repressed. There was nothing private about the way Katy poured the red paint over their body or threw the pills around the stage. The audience couldn’t hide. And we couldn’t ignore or minimalize. Katy made us feel and see pain. But some of the most powerful moments were when they played with humour–or was intentionally flippant. Brushing off something upsetting with a smile. Coping mechanisms we all use. Katy moved between what we can see on the surface and what we feel beneath it with incredible control.
I was blown away by the talent and skill that Katy has as a performer–a side of them I had not yet seen. And I was inspired by the courage it takes to go on stage with such honesty in front of a room of strangers. To own what you think and feel with such openness. It may sound simple—but it’s actually incredibly difficult. It’s fearless.
Most of all, I was left thinking that all those who know Katy should see them perform. It’s a chance to really see their second self; to see Katy in their element.
Check out the video of ‘Menstrulogue’ here: