Review: The Vagina Monologues
I went to watch this last night with a few of the Sayoni girls. It would be a crime for me to miss this when it is finally playing in Singapore. Eve Ensler’s celebrated groundbreaking play was given a local flavour by director Loretta Chen, produced by Zebra Crossing.
The monologues is basically a series of short skits telling different stories of women – of love, of sex, betrayal, relationships, empowerment, femininity. I have never seen the Eve Ensler original, but I suppose that means little when this play is supposed to be an evolving piece that accomodates the changing nature of society, and in this case, was given a thoroughly local makeover. So, free from the comparisons from the original, I would say this is mostly a pretty good production in terms of acting, casting and direction. If it were not the last day, I would highly recommend people to go watch it.
The various skits were alternately touching, heartbreaking and funny. It started off with a monologue by an Indian woman about her vaginal hair which her husband found unpalatable, then going into what can only be described as the Vagina Circle – group of women sitting around examining their vaginas, except they were wearing army uniforms and taking orders. An allusion to militant feminism? Perhaps. Notably, there was the original-but-modified chorus of 12-year old girls describing their first periods, who terrorised the first three rows of the audience by walking among them, and distributing (even throwing) sanitary napkins. There was the older woman who couldn’t say the word “vagina”, but held up her hand in a V-sign instead of verbalising it, talking about the experience where she was finally able to “love” her vagina. A woman ranted about the treatment her vagina was getting from the society (which was really funny and insightful) through tampouns, douches and OG/GYN tools. Then of course, the completely controversial originally-13-but-modified-to-18-for-singapore girl who found healing from her traumatic sexual experiences through an experience with an older woman. A pole dancer pranced around for a few minutes, before a group of women sang about their short skirts. A male-to-female-transsexual talks about her femininity and her trials over it. A female dominatrix waxed lyrical about her experiences with giving women pleasure (which was probably the funniest part about the play), where all the different kinds of moans were enacted out, culminating the famously vocal “triple orgasm”. Finally, there was the monologue about childbirth, from various perspectives.
One of the values of the play is that it is highly gay-friendly. Same-sex relationships are portrayed positively – one of the controversies about the play, of course.
One of my main complaints is that it was discomfitingly tokenised in terms of race – Chinese, Malay, Indian. Furthermore, I don’t find it funny when people spout random tamil phrases for laughs, and especially when it is not in context. No one, and I mean no one, says “Thank you” in Tamil during sex. Secondly, what was the pole dancer about? Yes she was fun to watch, but I don’t believe it added any value to the play except pull in the straight male audience.