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23rd February 2015

Review: Vagina Monologues

The eye-opening and thought-provoking performance never lost its humour, despite the seriousness of the content, writes ‎Aimée Grant Cumberbatch

What would your vagina say if it could talk? And if it were a person, what would it wear? Vagina Monologues asked all these questions and many more. Women’s Officer Jess Lishak described the play as an act of “talking about the untalked-about,” and after the production’s hours were up, there wasn’t a single vagina-related taboo left intact.

With worrying rape rates in student areas plus cuts and closures threatening Manchester’s already strained women’s support centres, the production could not be more pertinent, and in her closing speech Jess mentioned some shocking statistics that are worth repeating. Manchester Women’s Aid faces cuts of up to 40 per cent, when even a 20 per cent reduction in funding would mean closure, while at Manchester Rape Crisis, the waiting list for counselling currently stands at 6 months.

Despite the seriousness of some of issues the production touches upon, it never lost its sense of humour. The performance began with some of the more lighthearted monologues, including a helpful reminder (for anyone wondering what to call their cooch) of the many different names for what’s down there. Lawrence of a Labia and the Grand Canyon of Fallowfield were some of my personal favourites.

Telling the stories of women from 6 – 60, the play was an utterly inclusive affair which took intersectionality and gender issues in its stride. As you sat back and watched each actor conjure up a vivid portrait of their character, the play guided you through the complex emotions having a vagina can cause, from pleasure to pain and back again.

Some of the most moving and thought-provoking monologues were those which tackled the struggles facing trans- and cisgender individuals. Written by a trans member of the cast especially for the production, the ‘My Impossible Vagina’ monologue was eye-opening and heart-breaking in equal measure. From invasive doctors’ appointments to constant questioning, the speech addressed the process of what its author called “waiting for permission to be myself.”

The production also paid its dues to what is undoubtedly the vagina’s greatest ever achievement, giving birth. Coming close to the end of the play, this particular performance left a lasting reminder of the vagina’s power to give life. In fact Vagina Monologues as a whole delivers a message that is as relevant now as it ever was: Every person on the planet has a vagina to thank for their existence.

So perhaps it’s time we straightened out our attitudes towards our downstairs mix ups and gave vaginas the lifetime’s service awards they deserve. Or at least a little respect.

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