Event: Vagina Monologues
Venue: Royal Opera House
Do you think you could talk for over two hours about vaginas? Eve Ensler certainly can. Recounting every nickname, fact and experience related to a vagina ever imaginable. From smear tests, genital mutilation and ‘vagina workshop’ orgasms, the “coochi-snorcher” was discussed to an extent that I never thought possible.
This may sound overwhelmingly off-putting to many, and no doubt the first five minutes of the play found me squirming in my seat wondering where this was leading. My doubts were rapidly dissolved, however, as the humour and charisma of Ensler’s words, delivered with zest and poignancy by the three monologuers, soon had me gripped. To somewhat excessive raucous laughter, whoops, cheers and shouts, the three dynamic women on stage delivered the testimonies of women and their vaginas, and undeniably they did it exceedingly well.
With simple staging, a star-studded backdrop and three chairs and tables, Abi Roberts, Jan Sheperd and Kate Webster engaged and chatted with us for just over two hours, I was captivated throughout. They changed and adapted into their various, and wide-ranging, characters with ease and expertise. We listened intently to their assorted tales: a 72 year old woman who “hasn’t been ‘down there’ since 1953″, an American woman who, though abused as a child, wittily re-finds her vagina as a place of ‘wild joy’, and a Bosnian woman who powerfully recalled memories of being raped by soldiers as a young girl.
The poignant, insightful or downright farcical testimonies of these women are gathered from Eve Ensler’s original collection of ‘Vagina Interviews’, in which she questioned 200 women, of all ages and nationalities, about sex, relationships, violence to women, and quintessentially, about their vagina. Such asked questions such as, what do you call your vagina? What does your vagina smell like? If your vagina got dressed, what would it wear? Alongside their real-life answers, which were delivered wholly uncensored, unashamedly revealing the most intimate details of these women’s personal issues, Ensler included a number of rather enlightening facts about the vagina itself too. One in particular, ‘The Clit Fact’, was repeated no fewer than five times throughout the play. It involved much audience participation and even allowed us the chance to shout out, whenever one felt the urge, a request to have it repeated again.
Each actress, at least once throughout the play, also delighted the audience with their own ‘When Harry met Sally’ orgasmic experience. Some were far more expressive than others, all extremely convincing and uncomfortably well-acted. One in particular, spectacularly performed by Kate Webster, will always be remembered, as it climaxed traumatically entertainingly with three fire sparklers erupting from the floor, onto which Webster descended upon and stretched out.
The experience was certainly unique. It was not necessarily what I was expected, but in many ways it was much more. If at first you thought Ensler’s title was ironic or a metaphor, be prepared to think again. At first I couldn’t help but pity the one man sitting three rows down from us, but even he, in no time at all, was unquestionably enthralled by the charismatic performance of all three actresses. The audience was moved, inspired and delighted by the words of so many diverse women, and irrefutably entertained by Eve Ensler’s innovative creation that is The Vagina Monologues.
The Vagina Monologues showed for one night only, Monday 10th November, at York Grand Opera House