The Vagina Monologues, first performed as a one-woman show by Ensler herself, opened in its current incarnation at the Ambassadors on 10 May (previews from 8 May) and was originally scheduled to close on 3 June 2001. But following the news last month that Ensler was to extend by two weeks and then be replaced on 19 June by the triumvirate of actresses Maureen Lipman, Edie Falco and Sophie Okenodo, there is this week news that those names will be followed by still more.
From 10 July, Mariella Frostrup, Amy Irving and Marianne Jean-Baptiste have been lined up to share the role. British television presenter Frostrup is best known for her husky voice and for presiding over travel shows and awards ceremonies. American Irving, formerly married to Hollywood director Steven Spielberg, has appeared in films such as Yentl, The Competition and, most recently, Traffic. Jean-Baptiste's credits include Mike Leigh's film Secrets and Lies.
Those three won't be the last either - probably not by a long shot. From 31 July, they are due to be replaced with Texan model and former wife of Mick Jagger, Jerry Hall, who was last seen in the West End in The Graduate; Ricki Lake, presenter of the eponymous American confessional talk show; and British novelist, comedienne and star of TV's Goodness Gracious Me, Meera Syal.
Originally seen Off-Off Broadway in 1996, the award-winning The Vagina Monologues first came to London in 1999 when it ran for a six-week season, with Eve Ensler on her own, at the fringe King's Head Theatre in Islington. During that UK outing, a special Valentine's Day performance, repeating a similar affair run the year before in New York, was also 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. All proceeds from the event went to women's charities.
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