New review: Viva la vagina

// 4 July 2010

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Jessica Gjergji is blown away by a performance of The Vagina Monologues at the Bristol Old Vic

People wearing vulva outfits in a race“My daughter’s got a part in tonight’s performance,” I hear a rather tall man dressed in a tweed jacket tell the woman with glass beads behind me. “Oh, how lovely,” she says, “you must be very proud….”

We could have been enjoying pre-theatre drinks anywhere, with tickets to see King Lear stuffed into our pockets. In fact, we were gathered in the Bristol Old Vic awaiting the start of The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler – how very bohemian of us, how very daring!

I confess that I had never read The Vagina Monologues. I was fully aware of its existence, and the fact that it was performed at various locations across the UK each year in aid of V-Day, a charity (some would call it a movement) established by Eve Ensler in response to violence against women. And, I knew that Eve Ensler had interviewed more than 200 women across the globe from the ages of six to 75 about their vaginas, something that most women had quickly, even gratefully responded to. The Vagina Monologues are the collation of their stories – heart wrenching, hilarious, touching and revealing, they had been the subject of derision and scorn as much as exalted praise and adulation. Knowing all this, I cast aside my very British British-ness in preparation for my foray into an evening of Vagina territory.

I had expected the audience to be almost exclusively female, but it was not the case. Joining the tall man in the tweed jacket were many of his male counterparts, old and young. Some seemed blissfully unaware of the treat that was in store for them, others were there in a show of support, a few were there on dates (a brave choice), and a small collection seemed to be there under duress. But, be they male or female you could spot a Vagina virgin, myself included, from across the studio – they were those bewildered looking specimens, an expression of expectancy and unease churning across their faces.

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