More than a decade since it was originally written by Eve Ensler, The Vagina Monologues continues to be as celebrated and controversial as ever. Both applauded for it's feminist intent and criticised for it's handling of statutory rape and male-female relationships, ths show now forms an integral part of the V-day campaign against violence towards women.
The monologues were compiled following hundreds of interviews with women and developed into a series emotional tales that explore all things vagina; menstruation, childbirth, rape, smear tests and orgasms to name but a few. Each speech is interspersed with some semi-scripted 'chat' and a little audience participation that elicits a lot of laughter.
The whole evening has an atmosphere of 'girl talk' in the pub with friends; glasses of Chardonnay should be handed out at the door. This sense of sisterhood naturally extends to the inevitably female-dominated audience, drawing them effortlessly into each story.
Sally Lindsay, Lisa Riley and Sarah Jayne Dunn sit lined up on bar stools with a backdrop of twinkling lights on a stage as naked as the subject matter. Music is limited to the beginning and end of the acts and is unashamedly pro-women. Each monologue is delivered in a distinct and lively manner with characters ranging from Bosnian villagers to upper class sex workers.
Though all of the stories are emotive in their own way, this isn't an evening for pity or depression; each tragedy is balanced with humour and dignity. Riley's delivery of Eva's own experience of becoming a grandmother is particularly beautiful.
Love it or hate it, this intimate play sends some powerful messages about the nature of womanhood and the trials and triumphs that accompany our most private parts. My advice is to spend a night at the Lowry and join the legions of woman strolling out into the night with a new found appreciation for their 'coochie snorchers'.