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Jet of Blood
Stuart Liam McConville

This artist performs with her alleged rapist’s name painted on her body

Mari Moriarty’s Jet of Blood sees the actor/director paint a man’s name on her body in the climax of the show

Antonin Artaud’s 1925 Jet of Blood is a brutal, shocking play – scorpions crawl out of vaginas, people eat eyeballs during sex – that explores humanity’s transgressions, cruelty, creation and destruction.

Artist Mari Moriarty debuted her interpretation of the play as a musical ballet at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival this month. Writing, directing, and starring in the three-person show, Moriarty transposes her own story onto the 1925 piece, exploring their rape and assault purportedly by a peer at school.

Moriarty names her alleged rapist by writing his name on her chest and torso and appearing on stage in the performance’s climax.

“This is the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my entire life,” Moriarty tells Dazed. I wish I could’ve done it in an easier and simpler way but my soul needed to tell the story in this way. Now that I've done it and people are starting to pay attention to it, I feel overwhelmingly supported and believed in a way that I don't think would've been possible a year or two years ago. I have a lot of credit it to the Time’s Up and Me Too movement.” 

Moriarty commends the support given by actors like Brie Larson and John Cameron Mitchell, who have shared images of Moriarty on stage at the show’s peak. 

“My biggest goal is to show the journey of a survivor taking back their power, but also through the show, to take back my own power,” she adds. “I do feel like with every day I do this show I'm getting my strength back more and more, and getting my life back.” 

Moriarty details that they were abused at age 14 – though she reported the incidents to the police, the process “hit a dead end”. While working on the play and through her emotions around the assault years later, “whispers” about their alleged rapist’s further behaviours spread.

“I knew that what I wanted to do was to out him and warn people about him,” Moriarty says. “At first, I thought a Facebook post would be easiest and simplest, but I was afraid of how it would come across – I was afraid that people wouldn't feel or understand my story. So I decided to tell it through theatre, because that's the language I’m most comfortable with. I felt like if I told my story and exposed myself completely as well as exposing him, people would feel the depth of what happened beyond a tweet or a post.”

The performance itself draws upon Moriarty’s identification with modern pop culture ephemera, like Skins and Miley Cyrus. Moriarty asserts that finding solace in these fantasy worlds, which plays out in the show, was vital particularly as a male-born rape survivor. “I had no male born survivor role model to look to,” they say. “All of the people that I felt connected to were over the top damsels in distress –much of the piece’s first half is art twisted and used to explore my life.”

The second party of the show explores Moriarty’s dealings with the police and her alleged rapist, while also included self-filmed pornographic videos. “I’m try to take away the shame for my sexuality, performing a powerful act of life on stage.” 

“My biggest goal is to show the journey of a survivor taking back their power” – Mari Moriarty

Reactions to the show have been “mixed” – “We've had walkouts, we’ve had people vomit in the lobby after the show,” Moriarty continues. “A lot of people don't speak. We've had days when people don't clap – not in a disrespectful way but because they’ve been really affected. Some people have come back two or three times.”

“I had to learn was to not be precious about spoiling the ending, because practically outing a rapist to prevent other victims from being created is a daily practice, and is absolved in one production. It’s been widely supported – I'm still shocked and in awe. The emotional sustainability of doing a tough show is a difficult process, but it feels right, and every day it gets better.” 

Moriarty intends to take the show to New York after the Fringe – debuting it internationally was a deliberate and conscious decision though. “I wanted to have the first show an ocean away from him, for my own peace of mind and for the actors’ peace of mind. I’m scared that he could bring a gun. Part of the terror of having a rapist who hasn’t been convicted is that I have to worry about running into him in the small island of Manhattan every day.”

Jet of Blood is at Zoo Charteris — Aviary at the Edinburgh Fringe until August 27