Theatre N16, Balham
The Vagina Dialogues, a title more than a little reminiscent of Eve Ensler’s oft-performed 1996 work The Vagina Monologues. However, as soon as the audience enters the auditorium, in which the cast is standing in a circle humming a low, insistent tune, this piece written and performed by The Völvas, asserts itself as a fresh and urgent piece of feminist theatre for 2017.
With each section of the piece written and performed by members of the company based on their own personal experiences or interests, The Vagina Dialogues is an engaging exploration and celebration of diversity and intersectional feminism. From the light hearted segments, such as the breasty ballet (my phrase) at the opening of the piece and an hilarious and all-too-relatable song about drunken-flirting written and performed by Jazmin Qunta, to the more serious pieces about sexual assault, racial identity, and bodily autonomy, this show addresses an impressive range of current feminist issues. Nancy Ofori Geywu provides side-splitting comedy with a serious message in her piece about an internet-troll, Tosh, who suggests that a woman would be more beautiful if she lightened her skin. She also appears with MJ Ashton in an entertaining, recurrent exploration of the female orgasm, which the audience soon becomes invested in, as though waiting for a winning World-Cup goal. Alongside these comic pieces, some particularly note-worthy sections bring the audience to breath-held silences, as Qunta discusses a woman’s choice to have an abortion (a particularly hard-hitting piece to watch from an Irish perspective), and Ashton and Sarah Jeanpierre perform a beautiful, bittersweet movement piece.
These artists bring a contagious unadulterated anger, pride, determination and passion to the stage, reminding me of bell hooks’ words, “I will not have my life narrowed down. I will not bow down to somebody else’s whim or to someone else’s ignorance.” The Vagina Dialogues is an honest, empowering piece of theatre in which the creators lay themselves bare in front of the audience, and in doing so lay bare the enormous issues still faced by women in our society, and that’s something.
The Vagina Dialogues runs at The Edinburgh Fringe Festival from 17th-27th August.