Hayley Roberts’ V-Day 2011 production of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues is an excellent staging of the famous piece; and features a uniformly strong ensemble cast celebrating women’s sexuality without a shred of embarrassment or preachiness.
Based on interviews Ensler conducted with women in the 90s, the play is a series of vignettes focusing on their views and experiences. The subjects range from fond memories of first sexual awakenings to stark recollections of brutal violence. As such, the piece is at times extremely amusing; at others harrowing and uncomfortable. This makes for a powerful and enlightening whole: one which informs as much as it entertains.
Against a simple symbolic backdrop of two red strips of material, the eight black-clad performers take it in turns to enact the monologues. There are no weak links in the assembled cast: Roberts herself exhibits a marvellously expressive comic ability during her main spot; whilst Anna Hillis is outstanding in her heartrending depiction of an elderly spinster explaining why ‘down there’ is ‘closed for business’.
Manleen Copeman’s graceful and poetic interpretation of ‘My Vagina Was My Village’ hits hard, based as it is on interviews with Bosnian war crime victims; whilst Emily Streete perfectly captures the free-spirited nature of the sex-worker who pleasures other women in a hilariously vocal performance of ‘The Woman Who Loved To Make Vaginas Happy’.
The piece is brought to an affirming close with Helen Raw’s convincing portrayal of Ensler herself, describing witnessing the birth of her grandchild. Here, the vagina is celebrated as the giver of life itself, and Raw’s emotional and uplifting performance captures those sentiments beautifully.
With 90% of all monies made from this run going to Edinburgh Women’s Rape and Sexual Abuse Centre, and 10% going towards female abuse victims in Haiti, The Vagina Monologues is not only an effective way to support worthy charities, but also an eye-opening and polished production which is highly enjoyable and easy to recommend – whichever side of the great gender divide you happen to stand on.
The Vagina Monologues runs until Sat 12 March at The Bongo Club.