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Cult Potential In Singing To C-Word Blues
by John Daly-Peoples

* Vagina Monologues, produced by the Auckland Theatre Company, at the Maidment Theatre, until March 23.

I've never met a vagina I didn't like and the recent production of Eve Ensler's Vagina Monologues was an intriguing introduction to a few more.

It is part documentary, part polemic and part poetry. It doesn't cover new ground but it sets a new benchmark in the level of frank discussion about vaginas, sexual politics and relationships.

It also provides a sensitive and authentic insight into the lives of women and their sexual realities, dreams and nightmares.

The vagina in the context of the play is portrayed as a metaphor. That it has been hidden, undervalued and a problem is much like the way women have been perceived for most of history.

By extending the metaphors for the vagina, giving voice to the ways in which it is both a curse, a hindrance and a friend and playmate the play increases the range and role of women from the abused and degraded to the adventurous and radical.

The play is loosely structured around sections on childhood, old age, sexual awakening and abuse as well as weird and wonderful encounters.

At times the performance was close to a joyous prayer meeting with Madeleine Sami leading the audience in the C*** Song to the tune of Frere Jacques.

The play may be based on interviews with hundreds of women but they have been so well selected and honed that there is a sense of the work being a vast mythic story of rich encounters and observations. The three women acting out the monologues are confident and engaging, failing in their ability to deliver the right level of drama and humour only occasionally. Each seems to carry with them an aspect of their own lives and their lives as actors. These bear down and blur the distance between stage and audience.

This is possibly one of the intentions of having a recognisable celebrity such as Lucy Lawless.

There is a sense that she is not acting, that she is there for personal and political reasons and at times she appeared uncertain of herself. She was, however, remarkable in a sequence in which she alternated between the part of a woman recounting a joyful sexual experience and a Bosnian rape victim. The contrast she conveyed between beauty and the darker side of humanity was poignant and moving.

Sami tells her tales with changing accents and ages with a charm and delicacy. As a nuclear physicist engaged in a process of scientific enquiry comparing her vagina to a black hole surrounded by atomic activity she drew out both the humour and the pathos of the denial and rejection of the vagina's place in everyday life. Only when she had to intone more didactic material did she sound unconvinced and unconvincing.

Danielle Cormack relished her many parts and had the house laughing like a comedy show audience at her aural descriptions of various types of orgasm.

It's a play which is entertaining, uplifting and capable of raising millions of dollars for charity.

The play will either end up being listed in a footnote on drama of the late 20th century or become one of the great cult plays which we will pay hundreds of dollars to see every Valentine's Day.

In the meantime watch for the people humming Frere Jacques.


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