The Vagina Monologues

SHELBY WHYATT thinks this simple but effective five-star production provides a view of feminism we can all relate to.

ADC cusu women's campaign lauren steele vagina monologues

ADC, 11pm, 14th – 16th February 2013, £6/5

Director: Lauren Steele

Let’s talk about vaginas. No, seriously, let’s. Even the backdrop of the stage resembles one. Last night, I was here watching Chekhov. Tonight, I’m screaming the word ‘cunt’ as loud as I can. I should probably add that this was subsequent to active encouragement from an actor; I didn’t just have a sudden, impulsive desire to single-handedly reclaim the word for the female gender.

I arrived at the ADC to find it in a state of utter chaos. The foyer was heaving; the show was sold-out. People had actually begun to try and convince (seemingly drunker) individuals to sell their tickets. This was the first sign that Lauren Steele’s production was going to be something very special indeed.

Based on the ‘Vagina Interviews’ conducted by Eve Ensler in the 1990s, The Vagina Monologues presents a series of monologues about, well, vaginas. A simple premise, it would appear. But, boy, did the CUSU Women’s Campaign pull it off.

From furious rants about tampons to a chillingly poetic account of female genital mutilation, it seemed that no issue was off-limits. Bringing injustice, quite literally, into the spotlight, The Vagina Monologues strikes a perfect balance between humour and poignancy. The cast were fantastic, with each monologist projecting a powerfully distinct voice. By presenting their unique situation in an entirely differentiated way, they only heightened the sense of empowerment which pervades the play.

The simplicity of Steele’s set served to bolster this effect, focusing attention on the importance of what was being said. With her cast dressed entirely in black, the audience was made to concentrate on the experience of the individual, as opposed to their outer appearance. Steele’s decision to have the cast sit at the sides of the stage, listening to their fellow speakers, also created a sense of community. The standing ovation received by the play really illustrates how the production connected with the audience, drawing them into a discussion which felt incredibly personal.

What I found most startling, however, was the fact that many of the topics discussed seemed just as current today as they presumably would have done in the 1990s. This might account for the clear popularity of the ADC’s current run. The emergence of sites like ‘Uni Lad’ and ‘The LAD Bible’ has seen any woman who dares to question casual sexism labelled a ‘wench’ (their word, not mine) who can’t take a joke. In light of this, it really is refreshing to see such a frank discussion of female sexuality which encourages activism in the face of oppression.

Exceptionally funny and startlingly honest, The Vagina Monologues manages to instruct its audience without alienating them. Avoiding the jargon and pseudo-intellectualism which seems to pervade a number of women’s campaigns, it brings both men and women into the fold. By voicing a ‘call to action’ which is neither exclusive nor militant, it suggests that Feminism is a movement to which anyone can contribute. And I think we can all agree that this is an idea which needs to be promoted.