The Vagina Monologues

Eve Ensler
Random ACT Theatre Company
Mood Nightclub, Edinburgh
(2006)

Since Eve Ensler's revolutionary The Vagina Monologues was first produced, hundreds of productions in cities around the world have taken place. They range from massive affairs with big-budget stars to small, intimate performances using home-grown talent - and it is the latter which graced the stage this week at Mood nightclub in the Omni, courtesy of director John Naples-Campbell and his troupe of five terrifically enthusiastic actresses.

Never having attended a performance of the Monologues before, it was difficult to know what to expect from the production. Would it be a confrontational and demanding experience which would require audience members to throw themselves wholeheartedly into the story of each character, or would it be a gentle and affecting night of girl power? With the actresses taking their positions among the audiences, most of whom were seated obediently on the dance floor, it could have gone either way.

Thanks to enormous dedication and sensitivity on the part of each actress, not to mention Ensler's powerful and moving writing, the Monologues varied in tone and pace while always staying captivating.

Each performer made her monologues relevant and forward without being intimidating, standing to deliver her lines from stationary positions among the viewers. Noteable performances included 'The Flood,' 'My Short Skirt,' and the moaning crescendos of 'The Woman who loved to make vaginas happy.'

More problematic, though the performance itself was flawless and sympathetic, was 'The Little Cocchi Snorcher that could' - more or less a story about a sexually abused 13-year-old who spends a night of passion with her 24-year-old (female) neighbour, who is then lauded by both the storyteller and the audience. Obviously this is based on one of Ensler's interviews, but it seems a little creepy that audiences cheered on the neighbour's behalf - one must ask oneself, if the gender of the 24-year-old was reversed, would this story of illicit passion provoke the same response?

The choice of venue was an interesting one given the atmosphere of the club on a typical Friday or Saturday night (when women will also find themselves the centre of attention, though not in a way that's particularly empowering to their gender); the staff's readying themselves for the night's business at times made it difficult to hear the performers, although this was probably less of an issue for those who sat where they were told.

That said, the use of space, lighting and sound was creative and well-thought out. The actresses maintained brilliant focus throughout the piece, and by the latter half of the show the audience had warmed to them admirably. This is a production that does what it says on the tin, and does it in a way that is easy to enjoy.

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Reviewer: Rachel Lynn Brody