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The Vagina Monologues

Published April 17, 2008

After a week of high drama and unforeseen upheaval, the The Vagina Monologues opened on schedule last night in front of a high-spirited, star-smattered audience at the Wyndhams. Of the four cast members originally confirmed for the show only the effervescent Jenny Éclair remained, after Naomie Harris and Sharon and Aimee Osbourne had to step down for various reasons. Heroically taking the stage alongside Ms Éclair last night were the twinkle-eyed Diane Parish and resplendent Rula Lenksa. Tom Bowtell went along to see what he could learn…

What with me being a man and everything, I wasn’t entirely sure what to expect from The Vagina Monologues, but despite the occasional moment of awkwardness (such as having to bellow the C-word while sitting next to my boss) it was certainly an eye-opening experience. I must also confess to having had some initial doubts that the vagina, splendid though it is, would be able to inspire enough material to fuel entire an evening’s theatre: I was very much mistaken. The breadth of the show’s material is extraordinary, ranging from the serious to the silly as it segues between Diane Parish’s reading of the disturbingly lyrical account of a Bosnian rape victim, Jenny Éclair’s bawdy riff about the be-stirruped horrors of the smear test and Rula Lenska’s magnificently authentic triple orgasm.

There is certainly something addictive about Eve Ensler’s hit about lady bits, and, as I left the auditorium, I even felt a slight pang of regret about all the larks my chromosomes have decreed I must miss out on. The show also afforded me the vicarious pleasure of observing my fellow male audience members shifting uncomfortably in their seats during the more gynaecologically unencumbered moments…

The first-night party provided further entertainment, with a host of celebrities supping champagne in bar Salvador and Amanda, which had been transformed into a rose-petal strewn, feather-boa encased emporium of sexual decadence. We also got goodie bags, which is a good thing, and means that I now have more raspberry-flavoured body lubricating vinegar than I could possibly know what to do with.

Whether or not it was due to the difficulties endured by the production, a touch of the Blitz spirit infused all of last night's proceedings, with many people acknowledging that the show going ahead at all was something of a triumph. In similar circumstances many shows might have delayed their openings, but, as director Irina Brown was keen to point out, the production's commitments to the charity V-Day (which fights against the abuse of women), meant that all concerned were adamant that “the show must go on”. And it did.

The Vagina Monologues is scheduled to run until May 12.

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