Sunday, 21 October 2018

Monologues reveal the innermost working of the female soul

The Vagina Monologues Wednesday, November 6, Kenton Theatre

The Vagina Monologues
Wednesday, November 6, Kenton Theatre

WHAT do you call yours? Clunge, fanny, front bottom, bearded clam? Or perhaps hot-dog holder? Until about 20 years ago the word 'vagina' was never actually articulated out loud. The only time you heard it was in a cringey biology lesson as your teacher described the mechanics of sexual reproduction. Even now, it's a word you are more likely to read in a medical journal than hear dropped into casual conversation. After an hour and a half at a packed Kenton, those six little letters had taken on a whole new meaning.

Writer Eve Ensler set out with her notepad to interview more than 200 women about their most intimate selves, asking questions such as "What would your vagina say if it could talk?" and "What would your vagina wear". The answers were staggeringly and movingly diverse. Three actresses, dressed in black and perched on red bar stools on a womb-like stage, regaled us with some of the funniest, most poignant and most shocking stories. There was the tale of the old American woman who was so humiliated after gushing over her boyfriend's car seat when he kissed her that she never went near 'the cellar' again - not until she finally learned the secrets of pleasure aged 72. There was the hilarious anecdote of the only English woman at a vagina workshop in New York who, armed with a hand mirror, was shown how to love herself.

There were darker tales, too, of gang rapes by soldiers involving bottles, brooms and guns, and African girls who expected to be mutilated 'down there' before puberty. And finally, almost as an addendum, there was the story of a woman witnessing her grandchild's birth, and her epiphany moment as she saw the baby's head emerging from its deep well. I had never seen this play before, thinking it might be a bit too militant or politically correct for my tastes. But it was fascinating to see how Ensler's bare-faced bravery in confronting this, one of the last great taboos, left you feeling a little bruised and battered but also triumphant.

A lot has happened for women in these last two decades in terms of liberty and independence, and talking about our sexuality has undoubtedly helped. So Eve, if you are listening I have just three words to say to you: Vagina, vagina, vagina. Ah! That feels better.

By Lesley Potter

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