As part of the Science and Industry Museum’s Culture Cure: Late event, Amy Vreeke performed an excerpt of The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me, a solo comedy theatre show about the decade she spent coping with and getting a formal diagnosis for her endometriosis. With endometriosis (a condition in which tissue similar to the lining of the uterus spreads or grows elsewhere) being such a prevalent disease that is inexplicably swept under the rug through a concoction of stigma and misdiagnosis, I was excited to see if the show would add something new to the growing discourse and awareness surrounding it.
Despite her skilful ability to blend sass and sincerity in her stage presence, Vreeke’s material faced a tug of war between the charming honesty of her true experience and the mild nod-inducing jokes that – although somewhat “relatable” in their deviations into the broader struggle of general life with a vagina – felt lacking in comparison to the exciting promise of its title.
Vreeke’s show gave her a platform to (rightfully) vent at her years of misdiagnoses. Perhaps this issue was still too close to home though, as her years of frustration were conveyed through an increasingly agitated repetition of similar jokes satirising the useless medical advice given over her decade-long struggle.
At first, Vreeke’s re-enacting of her medical consultations by placing the audience in her position was amusing as she nailed the uncomfortable drone of patronising medical professionals. However, given the 20-minute length of the performed excerpt, I was left underwhelmed by her choice in spending so much time on a limited range of jokes and felt it was unfortunate that she chose to remain in the safe, assured boundary of a head nod of audience approval rather than progressing to something more noteworthy.
This eventually stiffened the show into repeated vents of frustration through multi-roleplaying and peppered jokes about the advice given to her which stunted the piece’s cohesivity, leading it to feel like a well-constructed complaint as opposed to a fresh or profoundly comic take on the matter. As a result, I found myself moments ahead of Vreeke’s performance, already anticipating the next joke or punchline before its delivery.
This is not to say that the show was totally devoid of sparks of ingenuity or promise. Vreeke’s scrutiny of the embarrassment of speaking out about intimate issues highlighted those things we often suppress in order to appear as if we’re just “getting on with it”.
I found her observation on how autoimmune diseases can corrode pillars of your identity one of the most interesting observations made throughout. Vreeke’s overriding message of encouragement to refuse to be silenced and trust your own judgement was pleasant, it was just a shame that the fundamental basis of this show as a comic one was executed less successfully.
Overall, The Year My Vagina Tried to Kill Me felt somewhat flat and predictable in material despite my rooting for Vreeke’s frankness and important message throughout. The show fundamentally failed as a result of its uncertainty on what it was meant to be; an educational awareness talk or a comedy show? This lack of confidence in pursuing an angle or managing to blend the two without detracting from one another, meant the show fell short of the intrigue of its title.