The very title of this play brings sniggers......... 'what? You are reviewing a vagina?' laughed my husband, 'No way do I want to listen to stories of vaginas' said another friend, even I decided against asking my mother to come with me feeling sure I would be embarrassed by the topic in her company, so I was more than surprised, but equally delighted, when my 20 year old daughter said she would come with me this evening. I admit to feeling out of my comfort zone just by the very title...the vagina, it's not your everyday topic of conversation now is it? Everything I say seems to relate to a vagina this evening. 'an intimate atmosphere', 'a touchy subject', 'do you need a hand' when taking off my coat asks my daughter which leaves us laughing at the double entendre.
I have no idea what to expect not knowing anything about the writer Eve Ensler's The Vagina Monologues, so it is with an open mind I take my seat in the unsurprisingly mainly female audience (I counted seven males there and five of them seemed to be associated with the production!) Originally penned in 1996 the play has had, over the years, other monologues added, highlighting current issues affecting women across the world. This evening's performance is produced and directed by Rob Littler and presented by VML Drama. I had the opportunity to talk with Rob before the performance and as a married man and father of three daughters he stresses how important to him that a woman's' role in today's society should be one of equality but sadly women are still fighting for that right. It is obvious he is passionate about The Vagina Monologues....(see how even writing passionate seems to relate to vagina!) so I am now wondering what is about to take place.
The Studio at the Brindley Theatre, Runcorn is a perfect setting for tonight's performance and is almost at capacity. There is no stage and you look down on the performers. From my seat midway up the theatre for much of the time I could only see the top half of the ladies performing as they stood so close to the audience and on occasion, when they lay on the floor, they were totally obscured from view so maybe setting the scene just a little further back would be beneficial. The set consists of a very cosy sofa and rocking chair with a side table and soft lighting and the stars of this evening, Claire Choat, Gaynor O'Grady, Jenna Highfield and Kathy O'Grady are already in position as we enter the auditorium, looking very relaxed as they lounge about, chat and sip on red wine (or maybe that's typical prop wine and it is blackcurrant juice!)
From the start the Vagina Monoluges has the audience laughing, 'Vagina...sounds like an infection' 'It's totally an unsexy word' and then we hear other pet names given for the vagina ' a pookie, a twat a coochie snorter, a fannyboo' to name a few and that's it, the ice is broken and all embarrassment has gone.
The monologues are a compelling mixture of tales that are funny, sad, many horrific, taken from a series of interviews from real women around the world. Real stories, not made up to titillate. With stories of genital mutilation and systematic rape of women in warzones 'My Vagina Was My Village' is a particular monologue that makes you sit back and just take stock of what is still horrifyingly going on in this day and age and how we must not sit back and let it continue, but fight for the basic rights of women. 'Because He Liked To Look At It' relates to a woman ashamed of her vagina, but learns to love herself thanks to an encounter with 'Bob', plain old non descript 'Bob', who didn't like spicy foods and wasn't even an alcoholic, but loved looking at vaginas. There is a lot of laughter during 'My Angry Vagina' with rants of tampons, douches, gynaecological instruments and other objects of injustice against the vagina. 'The Little Coochie Snorter', a woman's recollection of a traumatic abusive childhood but how she found a healing process with a sexual experience with an older woman. There are many more thought provoking as well as humorous monologues including questions such as 'If your Vagina Got Dressed What Would It Wear', What Does Your Vagina Remind You Of' and 'What Does your Vagina Smell Like' to which it is reported a six year old as saying 'a snowflake'.
The Vagina Monologues is empowering, it's an awakening, it's emotional and tonight it was performed impressively by the above four mentioned members of VML Drama. With over two hours of dialogue they never faltered, they delivered with compassion and totally connected with the audience. I really think more men should go along to see this, yes it's a play about women but it's a wakeup call about the reality of violence, harassment and inequality still prevalent in today's society and the steps we must take to stop this.
Reviewer: Lorna Weekes
Reviewed: 3rd November 2016