Arts Theatre: Tkts 020 7836 3334
Runs: 1h 30m, no interval, with this cast till 12 January, for future details visit
Review: Vera Lustig, 21 December 2001

Three performers animate extracts from interviews with a range of mainly American women about their genitalia. Naughty-naughty feel good theatre with a dash of social concern
A beguiling trio perform the inaccurately-named Vagina Monologues (a title which excludes the external genitalia, thereby unintentionally illustrating the squeamish ignorance still prevalent among women). The performers perch on stools before a vaguely suggestive pink-and-red backdrop, on a stage edged with blush-hued footwear: baby bootees, peek-a-boo mules, Doc Martens . . . There are free-standing mikes: lone phallic symbols I welcomed warmly and subversively for though VM accepts all major sexualities, I sense I would have been more on-message if vibrators had sprung to mind, not poor old John Thomas.

The current occupants of this fetishistic décor are voluptuous, nurturing Loretta Swit, Michelle Gomez, who combines raw animal energy with sly wit. Ruthie Henshall seems the kind of flight attendant who could soothe the most white-knuckled passenger.

It’s some journey: Gomez, with raucous defiance, rehabilitates the much-abused word ‘cunt’. Swit recites a piece based on the testimony of a Bosnian rape-camp survivor a poem so wrenching in its juxtaposition of sensuous lyricism and brutality that it should have served as the show’s finale, rather than being followed by yet more impudent vaginolatry. For Ensler, the loosely-defined ‘vagina’ is the essence of the woman’s being.

Were does that leave the millions of victims of Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), who bear a suppurating gash in place of their vulva? A clearly-moved Gomez reads a third-person description of this terrible practice. On a personal note: I have researched FGM, and though one should not treat activism as a form of therapy, it does rid one of any coyness about female genitalia. Listen to first-person testimony, view the slides and, I assure you, you will not need vagina workshops.

[Note: Vagina Monologues has raised funds for the campaign against FGM.]

For past and future casts, see the website listed above

2002-01-02 21:40:30

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