Review: The Vagina Monologues – Apollo Theatre

A women-only showing of The Vagina Monologues was well-received at The Apollo Theatre on Friday 23rd February, as six women took to the stage to deliver the world-famous piece.

A range of monologues, a range of audience responses, and a range of women performing them all combined at the Apollo to ensure The Vagina Monologues was a success. Tackled by six talented ladies – Fiona Gwinnett, Maureen Sullivan, Carole Crow, Sue Edwards, Abbi Leverton and Lucy Benton – who brought to life the testimonials of hundreds of women about their vaginas, a subject so often consigned to taboo, each actress was given a moment in the spotlight, and each executed their moment brilliantly.

An early indication of what was in store for the evening came from Carole Crow, whose monologue told the story of a more mature lady, whose sexuality was stifled at a young age by the inconsideration of a teenage boy in the front seat of his new car. Entertaining as it was, it came with a lot of resonance, too, and Carole did a great job of conveying both sides of the tale.

Abbi Leverton’s monologue, meanwhile, told an opposite tale: it was a man named ‘Bob’ who helped her learn to love her vagina, and the story of ‘Bob’ took pains to demonstrate that, just as all women and all vaginas are different, all men are different, too. Abbi’s delivery was spot-on, and in particular her facial expressions were absolutely fantastic.

Sue Edwards’ highlight came when she was sprawled on a yoga mat, legs akimbo, directing a handheld mirror at her crotch as she examined the many ‘layers’ of her vagina in a retelling of a ‘Vagina Workshop’. Hilarious from start to finish, Sue’s natural flair for comedy really shone through and made this monologue highly memorable!

Similarly hilarious was Fiona Gwinnett…

Who knew there were so many varieties of moan within the sexual spectrum? From  ‘student’ to ‘diva’, it was one of those rare theatrical moments that united every single member of the audience in laughter. There wasn’t a single person who wasn’t tickled by at least one of the sounds that escaped Fiona’s mouth! Even the cast struggled to hold it together, and that was wonderful to see – it brought the whole room together.

Fiona also took on the mantle of perhaps the most affecting monologue, one created from the testimonials of Bosnian women subjected to rape camps. In a show packed with raucous laughter and empathetic groans, this was a moment of utter silence. A moment of guilt, almost, that we had been laughing so freely only moments before about sex and sexuality when there are women – real women – who are being tortured and mutilated and raped every day. Women without the option, the platforms, to come forward and say #MeToo with the rest of the world, women who haven’t got anywhere to make their voices heard…

It was a difficult listen, but one that was pivotal; if the only interviews that made it into the show were those that were funny or ultimately empowering then The Vagina Monologues’ overarching goal of giving an honest exploration of female sexuality would be lost.

Another powerful moment was Lucy Benton’s ‘My Short Skirt’ monologue. It would be no surprise if every woman in the room related to what she had to say, on some level. Similarly, Maureen Sullivan’s reclaiming of every word under the sun for a vagina – every word! – was, whilst humorous, a perfect example of how many people, women included, still consider the subject of vaginas, and the terms used to describe them, as off-limits. Both Lucy and Maureen delivered these monologues with confidence, and that in turn raised the confidence of the audience, particularly when Maureen asked them to join in!

It wouldn’t be right to review The Vagina Monologues without giving a shout-out to the two worthy causes the show was supporting: WightDASH and WOW! (Women on the Wight)

WightDASH, formerly the Isle of Wight Women’s Refuge, supports women, men and children who are experiencing domestic violence. They do vital work across the Island, and also offer a 24 hour helpline to support those in need.

WOW!, meanwhile, is a centre open to women and children who are struggling and feel as though perhaps they have nowhere else to go. Whether you are suffering from anxiety or depression, whether you are being bullied at home or at work, whether you are the being abused or neglected, or even if you are lonely and feel as though there is nowhere left to turn…you won’t be turned away.

These services can only survive with the generosity and support of Islanders, and certainly The Vagina Monologues highlighted their existence and importance, and just how crucial they are to the people they help.

The most monumental pat on the back, though, for the cast of this production of The Vagina Monologues, is the conversations held by the women in the audience when the stage was empty. Pre-show, nobody spoke except to others in their own groups. In the interval, ladies were striking up conversations with those in the rows in front and behind, comparing anecdotes and discussing the performance. On the way out, there were exchanges of names and social media details, and even an arrangement for a coffee.

And that is why pieces like The Vagina Monologues are so important. The laughs are great and the wake-up calls are, at times, uncomfortable… but it’s the discussions they spark in the audience that are the real measure of their success.

Congratulations, ladies. This was definitely, undoubtedly, a success.

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