Review: The Vagina Monologues (by Eve Ensler)

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When I told my friends and family what I did last weekend, I was met with looks of surprise and/or worry. ‘I went to see The Vagina Monologues’, I said to them, ‘And no, it’s not what you think…’

Therefore, in order to dispel any preconceptions readers of the Wessex Scene may have about this unbelievably empowering and exhilarating play, it had to be reviewed.

The Vagina Monologues is essentially a collection of facts, stories and opinions about women and their vaginas. The preconceptions, prejudices and problems women encounter with the most intimate, yet most unknown, part of their bodies are addressed with a perfect blend of comedy, tragedy and stark reality.  The author, Eve Ensler, undertook interviews with women from varying cultures, classes and sexual orientations in order to base her creation upon the true experiences of womankind.   She presented the results in play format and included tales of paedophilia, domestic abuse, adultery and discovering your essence of self as a woman.

The preconception which some may have about VM is perhaps one of a man-hating manifesto which excludes one half of the world’s population. This could not be further from the truth. Whilst the play recognises much of the damage done to women by men, there is no philosophy of hatred preached. Men are encouraged to see the pain which the uneducated of their sex have imposed upon women but there is no sense of guilt or blame; only an encouragement to learn from this and take a wider view of relationships. There are even examples of positive depictions of men; the story entitled ‘Because he liked to look at it’, for example, demonstrates the love a man encouraged one woman to feel for her vagina. Far from alienating its audience, in the production I went to see, the men in the audience laughed just as much as the women (if not more) at the comedic sections.

This production was performed by students at Bournemouth University in order to promote V Day and raise money for The Butterfly Foundation: a local charity which works with victims of domestic violence and abuse. All the women who performed were outstanding. The comedy and tragedy of the tales was pithily expressed with wonderful timing and the bare and open staging allowed the audience to both physically and literally come in to contact with the humanity of these women.

V Day is an international movement created by Eve Ensler and associates which aims to end violence against women and children. Originating from the publication and performance of The Vagina Monologues, women who have been inspired by the play campaign to raise money and awareness throughout the year, culminating on the designated V Day: Valentine’s Day. It is astounding to think of the impact this one piece of drama has had upon human rights.

A word to the wise: the 8th March is both Shrove Tuesday and International Women’s Day – a perfect time to treat your mind to some amazing literature whilst treating your body to some amazing pancakes!

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