Now aged 75, Blackman is most famous for her seminal 1960s roles, first in TV's pre-Diana Rigg The Avengers, and then as Pussy Galore opposite Sean Connery's Bond in 1964's Goldfinger. Since then, her career has included six years of The Upper Hand on television, and on stage, productions of The Glass Menagerie, Old World and her one-woman show Dishonorable Ladies.
Alexander is a familiar face from TV's Coupling and Smack the Pony, whose stage credits include Macbeth, Secretary Bird and, most recently, Hand in Hand at Hampstead Theatre. Amongst Bushell-Mingo's many theatre credits are Peer Gynt, Women of Troy, The Lion King and numerous productions for the RSC.
Originally seen Off-Off Broadway in 1996, the award-winning Vagina Monologues was first seen in London in 1999 when it ran for a six-week season at the fringe King's Head Theatre. During that UK outing, a special Valentine's Day performance, repeating a similar affair run the year before in New York, was mounted at the West End's Old Vic Theatre. Joining Ensler on stage for the V-Day celebration were a host of British and American actresses, including Kate Winslet, Natasha McElhone, Melanie Griffiths, Marisa Tomei, Cate Blanchett, Calista Flockhart, Gillian Anderson and Jane Lapotaire.
The current West End production of Ensler's show opened at the New Ambassadors Theatre in May 2001 where it closed on 22 September before re-opening a month later at the Arts Theatre. It 23 February 2002, before transferring back to the New Ambassadors Theatre on 26 February. The show received a 2002 Laurence Olivier nomination for Best Entertainment. A special star-studded charity performance, billed as V-Day UK, was held at the Royal Albert Hall on 5 April 2002.
During its run to date in the West End, the production has featured regularly refreshed three-strong companies, which have included stars such as Ruthie Henshall, Loretta Swit, Jerry Hall, Pam Ferris, Jenny Éclair, Maureen Lipman, Edie Falco, Sophie Okenodo, Mariella Frostrup, Amy Irving, Marianne Jean-Baptiste, Dannii Minogue, Kika Markham, Meera Syal, Sophie Dahl, Miriam Margolyes, Suzanne Bertish, Elizabeth McGovern, Nina Wadia, Helen Lederer, Lauren Ward, Lisa Stansfield, Celia Noble and Anita Dobson.
The Vagina Monologues, subtitled "An Anthropological Exploration", reveals a series of different women's stories and experiences involving their genitalia. The material was gathered from hundreds of intimate interviews, conducted by Ensler, in which women were asked probing questions such as "If it (your vagina) could talk, what would it say?".
- by Terri Paddock