Divya Parkash reviews The Vagina Monologues, directed by Ryan Hay and co-directed by Alice Gold, that went up in the Union on Valentine’s Day, Sunday February 14th and February 15th, 2016 and was coordinated by the Feminism Society of St Andrews.
You know it’s not going to be an ordinary show when your ticket is a condom, and as a member of the audience you are welcomed with a luxury item placed on your seat: a tampon. Even before the play started the theatre was buzzing with excitement. After all, how many people can attest to the fact that they have experienced a play that is enveloped in the word ‘Vagina,’ which is still considered a taboo in our society.
The Vagina Monologues is an episodic play written by Eve Ensler, first performed in 1996 at HERE Arts Center, New York City. The monologues are made up of interviews conducted with 200 women on their views of sex, relationships and violence against women. This production, directed by Ryan Hay, was part of V-Day in St. Andrews which aimed to raise awareness and end violence against women and was affiliated with the Feminist Society of St Andrews. The play, held in the Union, was an experience with intricately crafted plot lines illuminating diverse stories ranging across different ages, assigned genders, and sexual preferences we as audiences never get to hear. The sharp witty repertoire stood out like daggers, hilariously commenting on universal experiences of anyone who has owned or seen a vagina.
“I was worried about my own vagina. It needed a context of other vaginas– a community, a culture of vaginas. There’s so much darkness and secrecy surrounding them– like the Bermunda Triangle.” The monologues uttered “Vagina” an astounding 104 times, hammering down the disconcerted nature of the very word. The warm lighting embraced the anticipated audience into a comforting space, where no subject was too ineffable to bring on the lips. Topics such as rape, self-pleasure, genital mutilation, cancer, and birth were all spoken about with different intonations. This ranged from serious and heart-wrenching moments hauntingly described by Hannah Raymond-Cox in “My Vagina Was My Village”, a monologue comprised of testimonies from women in rape camps, to hilarious and uninhibited scenes relayed by Alice Gold in “Because He Liked To Look At It”, the story of a woman who learnt the beauty of her vagina by seeing it through her lover’s eyes. In “The Flood”, the audience shared an elderly woman’s mortification as she recounted her only sexual encounter that led to humiliation and finally cessation of any sexual activity, beautifully portrayed by Cathie Newman.
The highlight of the performance was Samantha Evans’ monologue, “The Woman Who Loved to Make Vaginas Happy,” which explored the range of moans she had experienced in her lifetime as a sex worker. The climax of the show had to be her vocalisation of the “surprise triple orgasm,” which was not only unapologetically forthright but also a sexual education that deserves to be acknowledged by anyone who has a vested interest in vaginas and sexuality.
The brilliant portrayal of the characters by each performer is a testament to their acting skills as they took the audience on a journey into the lives of these women, without props or backdrops. The uniformity of the black outfits and the cast staying on stage after each monologue gives the play the feeling of an ensemble, where no story is more poignant than the other with each story an empowerment. The collective strength of women is seen on stage. Furthermore, the informality of the monologues made the production accessible for both men and women, and it was tied together in the last monologue; “The Revolution Begins in the Body,” performed by Marija Zacharova, which powerfully encapsulated the importance of breaking the barrier and speaking about our bodies, and the beauty of it.
The unembellished performance of The Vagina Monologues successfully brought out the blatant need to talk about the stigmas around female genitalia and the pressing need to address them.
Let’s talk about VAGINAS!