At Lancaster university every February for the past 15 years a group of women+ folk have come together to put on productions of Eve Ensler’s ‘The Vagina Monologues’. It’s always part of a fundraising effort for a local charity, this year the charity is ‘Women’s Community Matters’. I was part of the show last year and this year I’m one of 4 directors – the preparation for the opening night was happening exactly one week ago, I was aiming to write about VMs much sooner, but it took up a lot of my time last week.
Last year when I stood on stage on February 13th it was the first time I had done so in at least 5 years – I’d practised my lines over and over and tried to distract myself from the nerves by frantically selling cakes pre-show. I did the same thing on the next show night as well. I can barely remember one word of that monologue now but I remember that feeling of pride and belonging as I sat with 30 other young women on that stage. The Vagina Monologues is much more than a play, it’s a movement and to me it’s a community. The play itself is at some points and bit overwritten, a bit dated (which can be forgiven as it’s 20+ years old) so we update it every year. Cutting lines than don’t align with how feminism has evolved over the past 20 years and tailoring the show to our local area, and our experiences as 21st Cenutry women.
This year the 3 shows in the Nuffield theatre were full of laughter, tears and thunderous applause. I had someone in the audience to cheer me on every night, my parents even came along to see the show on the Friday night. They didn’t know what to expect but found it a thought provoking and pleasantly surprising experience – although a fellow cast member told me she saw my mum cringe a little bit as I performed the ‘fake moan’ as part of the final monologue.
As a director I was so proud of every single person in the cast, many of whom had not performed on stage since their school days. Since their very first auditions in first term I saw even the seasoned actors grow in confidence as they talked about taboo topics – namely the VAGINA! There was a post show discussion after the Friday show with one audience member noting it was the first time they’d ever said the word “cunt”, which I think succinctly demonstrates the power the show has to break down taboos surrounding the language of the female body.
To find out more about The Vagina Monologues at Lancaster visit the facebook page.