It is difficult to think of the new play The Vagina Dialogues without associating it with Eve Ensler’s famous The Vagina Monologues in 1996. But that is not to say that this production piggybacks off Eve Ensler – instead, it gives us a well-needed update on feminist dialogue.
The Vagina Dialogues is a variety performance in a somewhat exhibitionist style, shifting from song to monologue to sketch and ensemble. The show is fast-paced, dynamic and constantly moving. Most importantly, the show brings an intersectional feminist angle exploring race, gender, sexuality (to name just a few issues) within feminism. The show opens with an earnest and rich monologue delivered by Sarah Jeanpierre, who comically and poignantly explores the intersectionality between race and gender.
After being challenged and moved, the audience then receive a total shift in tone
The cast are universally fresh and strong throughout, each with their own unique performance style, but all the cast members exhibit a natural theatrical ease. Together, they form a powerful and intimate group, making the show even more touching and tender. It is easy to have an emotional connection to the performances not only because of their quality, but also because of the clear cohesiveness of the ensemble. This show does more than make a point about misogyny and sexism, but makes us laugh, cry and even feel uncomfortable in moments (in order to make a statement).
To highlight the most impactful moments (without spoiling too much), we see a wonderfully written and powerfully delivered spoken word monologue delivered by MJ Ashton, where she recounts a harrowing experience of sexual violence, followed by a piece of physical theatre conveying healing. After being challenged and moved, the audience then receive a total shift in tone, with a witty and bawdy spectacle of the actors sobbing over bottles of wine and power ballads.
The comedy of this play is bold and audacious, with Nancy Ama Amponsaa Ofori constantly nailing comic timing. We also see some carefully chosen music by Grace Hudson (musical director), with charming acoustic adding to the emotion and comedy, especially with a comedic song written and performed by Jazmin Qunta.
The Vagina Dialogues is not for the faint hearted – it is brutally honest, and prompts us as an audience to be honest too
This show is not for everyone. And I mean that as a compliment. There is a clear sense of what this show is trying to say, and unashamedly so. This show is emotively and unapologetically exploring experiences of race, gender and sexuality – and celebrating these identities. It is not preaching or trying to convert anyone – but instead asking the audience to love themselves and eachother.
The Völvas are a new company to keep looking out for. Indeed, The Vagina Dialogues is not for the faint hearted – it is brutally honest, and prompts us as an audience to be honest too.
The Vagina Dialogues is showing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, information and tickets here.
Image: Celine Sophie