We're moving into a time when finally, we're seeing endometriosis portrayed in art. From photography, to portraits, and now to the theatre. Laura McGrady is the playwright and actress bringing life with endometriosis to the Kings Head Theatre for their Who Runs the World? feminist season with her play, Baby Box.
To celebrate the launch of the play, I asked Laura a few questions about her own experience with endometriosis, why she decided to write a play about the disease and her thoughts on art revealing the truths of life with endometriosis.
Could you tell us a little bit about your story with endometriosis?
My story is like many I have heard before, it may sound familiar. My first experience of pain that felt very different and out of the ordinary was at the age of 15. Before then I had experienced painful periods but was told this was normal. I was misdiagnosed with a number of conditions including IBS, Mittelschmerz (ovulation pain) and gastric ulcers. It took 11 years for me to get a diagnosis of Adenomyosis and Endometriosis through scans and laparoscopic surgery. I now manage through diet, exercise and hormonal birth control but it is still a constant balancing act as there is no cure.
We all deal with endometriosis in different ways, some of us like to deal with the disease more privately, others are more vocal - what motivated you to bring endometriosis into the public light through your play, 'Baby Box'?
The play was never meant to be about me, although it definitely has a lot of my own experience soaked into it. So it never really felt like I was baring myself through it but rather I was creating a character who I could relate to; if we met, her and I would have a lot to talk about! Endometriosis, or women’s sexual health is discussed so rarely in theatre and yet, the few times I have seen it on stage have been some of the most memorable and moving plays I have seen. It’s time we stopped worrying about what is taboo, who might be put off by the mention of a period or why we should keep it in our pants. 1 in 10 women live this story everyday - it’s long overdue that we started telling it.
What made you demonstrate the impact of endometriosis through two sisters, rather than one character? Is this a reflection of how little families/society talk about the condition?
Above all this play is about two sisters as they grow into adults. As a writer I always focus on the relationship between characters so the endometriosis almost felt secondary to that. One characters suffering effects the relationship, and we get a wonderful look into how difficult it can be to really communicate pain to the people closest to you without it becoming a defining factor in your relationship.
What are the main issues you address surrounding endometriosis conveyed in the play, and what do you hope the audience can take from this?
The play covers a huge time span for the characters so it touches on a lot of different elements of life with endo; from diagnosis through to learning to live with the label of a diagnosis. There are many things I hope audiences leave with having gone on the journey with the characters from the start to the end, but a little education and eye opening never hurt anyone.
Has telling this story about endometriosis through this particular art form helped you cope with endometriosis personally? Has it been an outlet or a therapy of some sorts?
Honestly, no. But that’s okay, writing this play was never about that for me. Theatre is my passion and rather than using it to help me, I used my knowledge and experience with endo and adeno to help create a piece of theatre that I am proud to share. It is so important to me that this play is for everyone, not just for sufferers of endo, or people interested in women's health. It is a story to share, it is a great night at the theatre and it is a heart warming journey to experience.
What would you say to anyone considering turning their experience of endometriosis into an art form?
Sometimes talking about illness and pain can be tough. Endometriosis isn’t fun, it isn’t light and because there is no cure it can feel a little like an endless slog. Art is entertainment. Yes, theatre, flim, paintings or any other art form can be emotional, or tough for an audience, but there has to be an element of it that is enjoyable. At least a slither of light. But above all be honest. Awareness and publicity is important, endo needs to be known. I hope there comes a day soon where no one says to me ‘Endo-what? Adeno-what?’ and I believe art can play a huge part in working towards that. We’ll get there.
Baby Box is running from May 1st - May 6th at Kings Head Theatre. This EndoLife readers can get special price tickets at £12 with code BabyBoxEndo.