I had mixed reactions from people I told I was going to see The Vagina Monologues. There was polite interest, only one person I spoke to had seen it before, most had everyone had heard about it – but overall the sentiment expressed was along the lines of “oh that was important wasn’t it” – “it was a big thing at the time” – “aren’t we a bit past that whole vagina talking thing?” Well, this production organised and directed by Tessa Hart, assisted by Jessica Ruano proved that we well and truly are not.
Is it confronting to listen to people talking about their vaginas? Not particularly. It’s surprising how quickly it feels normal and completely not weird to be in this situation and hearing these women’s stories. And we meet vaginas grieving; vaginas that flooded; vaginas that were off limits; vaginas removed; vaginas raped; vaginas loved; vaginas as home wear furnishings; vaginas discovered; vaginas as cunts; vaginas receiving; vaginas as a village; vaginas giving; vaginas angry and vaginas jubilant.
Eve Ensler’s scripts strike a good balance between the hilarious and hysterical and pathos. There is much movement in emotion and voice across the monologues but they are united in their ultimate affirmation of love and life against what can sometimes be a violent world. Also, in each story and from each monologue there is a connection to each of us that comes directly from their source material being from real people. There was truth to much of the writing and it shone through the entire reading. And whilst the majority of the audience had thankfully not experienced sexual slavery – even in those harrowing stories there were startling small moments of recognition.
The actresses performing were Kate Smurthwaite; Rebecca Mordan; Sally Mortemore; Kate Rawson; Georgia Buchanan; Bonny Davis; Jenny Hsia; Jiin Jang; Lauren Karl and
Lydia Lane. The ensemble were excellent and committed to the monologues and it is hard to separate out performances. But I will say that I particularly enjoyed Lydia Lane, Georgie Buchanan and Sally Mortemore’s monologues and their characters voices have really stuck with me.
This play is a celebration of who we are as women, and what we can be. It is a challenge to the potential in all of us to make a difference and to take a stand against cruelty and violence to women across the world. One Billion Rising is a growing network and charity that Eve Ensler founded – it involves dancing, reclaiming bodies (including vaginas) and standing tall against violence.
It always frustrates me when people are dismissive of plays that were written a few years ago, and doubly angry that if these were by a woman about a feminist issue they are even more disregarded. I think Tessa Hart and the people who worked on this understand this much more than anyone I spoke to before seeing this show. This play is as relevant as it ever was perhaps more so – and you don’t need to have a vagina to acknowledge that.
More details about the production here: http://www.obrartfest.co.uk/the-vagina-monologues.html