‘If your vagina could talk’: Lancaster’s take on the Vagina Monologues
They served a cocktail called The Matriarchy
The smell of my flat reminded me of lavender fields and rose bushes. I knew that my flatmate, Alex Brock (First Year International Relations Student), was always making things so the fact that my kitchen was filled with colourful, homemade soap wasn’t at all surprising.
Yet, what did manage to shock me was the shape of the soap; it was vagina-shaped.
Although I was aware that Alex had been working hard with Lancaster Vagina Monologues through weekly rehearsal and cake sales on Alexandra Square, I was still surprised at what I saw. But my reaction was exactly what the Vagina Monologues is aiming to address, Alex and the other girls believe that “we need to speak about the unspoken.”
As a single woman on Valentine’s Day, it was safe to say that my options on how to celebrate the holiday were limited and so, intrigued by the soaps, I thought I’d buy myself a ticket.
The vagina monologues is a series of monologues written by Eve Ensler who interviewed 200 women from a wide range of ages and cultural backgrounds about their experience with their vaginas. She asked questions that most people had never heard before such as, “if your vagina could talk, what would it say?” and “Is there anything your vagina has ever been angry at?”
Many of today’s Vagina Monologues performances take place amongst university students and Lancaster happens to be one of them.
As I entered the Great Hall on the Saturday night I was instantly greeted by enthusiastic cast members, proudly flaunting their vagina monologue t-shirts. Stalls were filled with vagina-themed goodies from cakes and chocolates, to keyrings and postcards. The bar in the Great Hall even served a themed cocktail called The Matriarchy.
All of the earnings went towards the local charity LetGo, which is a domestic violence service providing support and interventions for people affected by domestic abuse across Cumbria and North Lancashire. I was amazed by how the good-natured atmosphere was already evident before the play had begun.
Many of the monologues had the audience roaring with laughter with some really outrageous statements from the confident and talented cast members. Alex’s monologue: “My Angry Vagina” had me in stitches. She spoke of how her vagina was “pissed off” at the brutality tampons and swab tests and the world should “work with the vagina” and make it happy.
I never thought I’d see my flatmate throw tampons into an audience. It was great.
However, there is also a very serious element to the vagina monologues as it touches on very sensitive and personal issues. A monologue which stood out to me was “My Vagina was my Village” which expresses the horrific experience of Bosnian women in rape camps during the Bosnian war.
After the show, I was lucky enough to speak to one the directors, Bethan Archer (Postgraduate, English Lit and Gender and Women’s studies MA) about her hands-on experience with the play.
Why did you decide to direct the vagina monologues?
Bethan: I loved being a part of the show and the community it created last year and just figured sod it, why not apply and see if I can work on it even more this year?
What does your role consist of?
BA: Director’ is a way too fancy word for what we do… or at least what I’ve done. The main job of the Directing Team is to organise 35 or so people, make sure they’re learning lines, that they’re ready to perform – and when they do perform, that there are people for them to perform for, and that we raise money from it.
It’s a lot of list-making, crowd control, and giggling with a fab bunch of women. As Head Director, I think I’m technically meant to be in charge overall, but this has mostly meant sending my two co-directors a lot of messages in capital letters and being told to calm down by them. As a member of the Directing Team, you’re there to support the cast – but you definitely need to be a team of directors, because you so often need one another’s support too.
What has been the highlight of the VMs for you this year?
BA: The community you build within the cast and the fact you are serving your community outside of it. The Vagina Monologues is the best thing that I’ve done through my University life (both UG and PG), and the idea that I probably wouldn’t have met most of these amazing women if it wasn’t for it, is quite a tough one to think through.
We get angry together, upset together, and then howl with laughter three minutes later. All of this is what helps drive us to raise money for some amazing local causes, knowing that what you’re doing on stage – and all the rehearsals and time spent baking/making merchandise – is going to make a real difference to some people’s lives.
I expected the audience to be mainly made up of women, given the nature of the performance. However, the audience was very diverse. Do you think it’s important for the audience of VMs to be representative of all genders?
BA: I think so, much of the show is about voices that aren’t heard and lived experiences that aren’t spoken about. Watching the show is probably going to be a very different experience if you can relate to what’s being vocalised on stage compared to if you’re considering the topics for the first time, having never thought or spoken about them.
If the audience was comprised of a single gender, it could still be highly important for the people both in the audience and on stage, and an important conversation would still be being had. However, I think that it’s important that the topics within the show are spoken about by everyone – and to do that, you have to be exposed to them. If we want to have a conversation about this, then it can’t just be amongst people who are already on board. Making changes is so much easier when there’s a wider variety of people involved.
Overall, I absolutely loved what I saw. The play brought out such a surprising stir of emotions and it was great to see a strong group of women presenting something so passionately and clearly loving what they do. I would strongly recommend to anyone, whatever your gender, to buy a ticket next year.