Friday, April 29, 2016

The Vagina Monologues - Review - Royalty Theatre

The Vagina Monologues
Royalty Theatre
27th April 2016

Amy Herdman-Burns
Emma McLeary
Beth McAneny
Jude Nelson
Julie Chisholm

The Royalty is staging The Vagina Monologues as its second studio production this season. It's a bold choice but perfectly suited to the intimacy of the studio venue.

The scene is set with a red brick wall as backdrop, no stage and the performance area is incredibly close to the audience making for a close and intimate experience. As the play starts the women are actually seated in the front rows and each stands and joins the others in a conversation about the most intimate part of their anatomy, explaining what the monologues are, how and why they they came about before introducing the first one.

It's brash, it's forward, it's funny. There is much laughter as they list the many names given to vaginas around the country. The women declare their love and loathing, their interest and indifference about this magical, mysterious and monstrous part of their bodies. It is part of us, but it is never spoken about, never touched by us and heaven forbid that we should ever LOOK at it! The monologues, we are told, are a mixture of individual and collective stories. Most are a humorous look at our - and others - attitudes to our vaginas, but some are serious and sad and horrifying. Vaginas, it seems are rarely seen as belonging to the woman whose body it is a part of and the monologues are about us reclaiming, and coming to love what is ours. I was expecting some rank feminism and there certainly is an element of it, but what comes across most is the sadness and confusion that women have felt about their bodies and their lives. The monologues are about finding our identy, and sometimes losing it.

The writing is colourful and frank, and incredibly sensitive and beautiful. The cast do it full justice. presenting the monlogues with such a sense of fun but with seriousness and calm when the script demands it.

I came to this with misgivings, I have been disappointed in the last two productions at the Royalty and was totally unsure that the team here would be able to deliver on this one. But deliver they do - slick production, excellent lighting and sound, and the closeness of the actors to the audience is perfect for the subject matter - providing intimacy and just enough discomfort when eye contact is made! The five women give strong and varied performances. And if on the first night the proximity of the audience and first night nerves got the better of them at times it was barely noticed and expertly dealt with. Nikki Briggs has done a great job directing her cast of women and they have produced an entertaining and thought provoking show.

If the performances in all their productions were as assured and professional as this the theatre would be full every time.
Wednesday was a full house - I recommend booking your ticket in advance - it's worth the booking fee to guarantee you get a seat for this. The Vagina Monologues runs until Sat 30th.

Denise Sparrowhawk

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