Tell us about your show, The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me
The show is a solo comedy theatre show about my experience of living with the chronic condition, Endometriosis.
Endometriosis is a disease that affects the lining of the uterus. The cells that usually line the uterus migrate to other parts of the body, mainly around the pelvis and the organs in that area. The symptoms of this vary, they include infertility, pain during sex, bowel problems and very painful periods. The average diagnosis time for the disease is 7 years, it affects one in ten women yet is barely recognised.
The show explores living with the symptoms as well as wider issues surrounding women’s health, women being ignored, unheard and shamed.
What made you want to make a show about such a personal topic?
I first realised I had the disease through reading a book by a woman with endometriosis. She gave a personal account on how she felt living with it and that really resonated with me. It was the first step towards a diagnosis. If I can do that for one other person through discussing this personal topic I’ll be happy.
When it comes to comedy, I’ve always written about personal experience, at least that’s the starting point for it. I think writing about something you’ve lived means you can really do it justice.
Twelve years of misdiagnoses is an awful thing to have to go through. What’s your process for making something like that funny?
I naturally turn to comedy when I’m experiencing any kind of difficulty. I’ve always looked for the humour in any situation, it’s what gets you through these things. ‘If you didn’t laugh, you’d cry’ is a phrase I am well acquainted with.
So I wrote jokes about my experience because that is how I dealt with it in the world too. I’ve actually struggled more with the moments of vulnerability in the show, because that’s not my comfort zone.
Was it ever difficult to encourage other people to laugh about it?
No. People who suffer have mostly been glad of the relief of laughing about it.
I hope the show has created a space where people laugh together about it. It’s not making fun of it, it’s finding the funny in it. I have some times walked into a comedy club and looked at the audience and thought ‘these guys don’t look like they’d be a fan of a joke about bleeding after sex’ but they have always suprised me. Never underestimate your audience!
Obviously there have been a few people who don’t enjoy that kind of comedy, but each to their own.
This isn’t the first time you’ve incorporated taboos about women’s health into your comedy. Why do you think it’s important to talk about topics like this on stage?
To be completely honest, I’ve always just written about the world from my perspective, and my perspective happens to be an ill woman who bleeds and shits and shags.
The funniness and quality of the work has always come before a need to discuss certain topics. Having said that, I did not realise until I started talking about it, how much it is needed.
The fact that endometriosis affects one in ten women and takes an average of SEVEN YEARS to diagnose points to the fact that we aren’t talking about this stuff enough. It’s important that women feel like they can discuss things with each other, their partners, their doctors, and maybe hearing a relatable experience and laughing with your mates might encourage that.
The show includes “toilet-based mishaps and failed one-night stands”. Just how graphic does it get?
This is going to make me sound like Sandra from the office who everyone hates but I guess I just tell it how it is.
What is your personal preference when it comes to graphic humour – the toilet stuff or the sex stuff?
If it’s funny, it’s funny. I think doing it for the sake of it can be a bit shit (lol) but if it’s come from experience it’s usually great.
What do you hope audiences take away from your show?
I hope they have a laugh. I hope they learn a bit about endometriosis and the crisis going on with women’s health. I hope they will feel more like they can chat openly (if they don’t already) about their and/or their friends’/family/partner’s health, even if it does involve their fanny.
Why did you choose to debut the show at SICK! Festival?
I applied for a catalyst commission with SICK! Festival last year. I was in a show (There is a light: Brightlight) that was a part of their last festival and was aware of the great work they do showcasing work about topics that aren’t widely discussed in theatre or generally.
Their programme is always really diverse and exciting and I really wanted the opportunity to be a part of that, I feel very lucky that I am!
Amy will be performing The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me at SICK! Festival on October 2-3rd at the Martin Harris Centre.