If you have a vagina, or are likely to ever come across one, you should definitely go to see The Vagina Monologues. I was excited to see it from the moment I first heard it was being put on in Cambridge – it's a piece which is not only incredibly fun but also vitally important. Tthe evening certainly delivered, with strong direction and a solid cast.
The stage set-up and format of the monologues created an inclusive, intimate atmosphere despite the ADC’s size; warm colours and well-thought out production and stage management brilliantly setting the tone for the performance taking place between the narrator’s study and the room in which to meet women and talk vaginas.
The monologues themselves succeeded in inspiring a range of responses from the audience: some moments were truly hilarious (and relatable) as in ‘My Angry Vagina’ or ‘The Vulva Club’; others were genuinely emotional, as in ‘I Was There in the Room’ or ‘Reclaiming Cunt’. With some parts playful, others upsetting, some funny and some profound, the show is pleasingly varied, snapshotting a collection of the many, many things there are to say about vaginas.
Direction from Eva O’Flynn was very good: moments in which all of the women came out on stage together were particularly slick, there was a good degree of variation in spite of the repetitive format, and moments such as Léa de Garnier des Garets’ moans or Sophie Foote’s intensity were executed brilliantly.
More could perhaps have been done to segue between scenes and a couple of technical issues held back the performance occasionally, but on the whole the direction succeeded in creating an organic atmosphere which conveyed the sense that the performance was based on a real study of real women. This came across particularly strongly when Katurah Morrish and Eleanor Booton’s characters had difficulty finishing their stories, or when Saskia Ross induced the entire ADC audience to shout the word ‘cunt’.
Acting-wise, there were no weak links, every performer bringing a real sense of character to their role and doing full justice to the women they represented and their vaginas. Emily Mahon particularly stood out as utterly brilliant, her delivery of a rant about the injustices vaginas undergo perfectly-timed and hilarious.
Saskia Ross’s performance was empowering and poetic; Eleanor Booton’s sensitive and heart- warming; Katurah Morrish’s endearing and well played. Nandini Mitra made me genuinely cringe in pain a little in her discussion of hair-removal, whilst Sophie Foote and Helen Vella Taylor brought a real emotional intensity to their pieces.
Sophie Taylor, Georgina Taylor and Léa Garnier des Garets were also all excellent: clearly the project tempted some of Cambridge’s finest actors. Xanthe Burdett also gave a very good performance: my only criticism would be that to begin with the line between theatre and ‘real’ life, particularly blurred by this play, came across a little clumsily, with her chatting to the audience in a slightly affected theatrical style. Beyond this, however, Burdett delivered a monologue on FGM with real compelling intensity and tied the performances together as narrator neatly.
All in all, The Vagina Monologues was an awful lot of fun, and I would certainly recommend going along to watch it. It really is wonderful to see female sexuality (literally) take centre-stage for a sensitive and honest exploration of subjects too-often consigned to taboo, and to see a well-written piece wonderfully executed.