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The Vagina Monologues – A Review

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Last weekend, on December 3rd and 4th, the Attic played host to a small troop of outspoken vaginas.

Well, not vaginas per se, but the women possessing those vaginas took the stage for almost two hours worth of powerful, empowering entertainment. {{more}}From start to finish, Collette Jones’ interpretation of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues kept the audience rapt, involved and completely engaged.

I first saw the Monologues in London three years ago. I loved the play so much that I saw it twice more – each time with a different set of actresses. When Jones told me she was doing a production of this play here in St. Vincent I was immediately interested. I wanted to see the differences between a production done by UK or American actresses and one done by Caribbean actresses. The differences were quite apparent. However, the similarities were even more evident. It seems like women the world over share something that we men are privy to only in flickers. In most cases, the interpretations were almost identical.

Of course, there were times last Friday that I saw a distinctly Caribbean flavour being exhibited. The major difference involved levels of emotion. The productions I’d experienced before were all very controlled, very calming. Ranges of emotion were portrayed, but it felt more like a dramatic reading than a play. True to Caribbean form, however, Collette Jones’ production ranged from deeply internal emotions to intensities of anger, rage and – naturally – humour. I find it difficult to decide which of the four versions I’ve seen is best. Indeed, I think that would be counter productive – they were all excellent because of their very diversities.

The actresses were all excellent. Shanda Sandy’s pieces were well delivered, controlled and compellingly sensual. She connected especially with the women in the audience when she delivered one woman’s story of pain, loss and empowerment; all connected to her vagina and its… erm… hair.

Grace Peters delivered a composed yet gripping monologue about childbirth. Not only was the experience portrayed as mysterious and wondrous, but the indignities faced by women during childbirth were brought out so clearly that I am entirely thankful I was born male.

Cheryl Johnson was so deep in her character – that of an older woman who, for her entire life, ignored her vagina and everything connected to it – that I had trouble remembering she’s in the prime of her life and not over 70.

Lafayette James also convinced the audience of her character’s authenticity and portrayed scenes of both humiliation and humour brilliantly. Again, this actress’ juxtaposition of sensuality and innocence was masterfully (or should I say “mistressfully”?) executed.

Kijah Gani succeeded in scaring the pants off most of the male members of the audience when she took the stage in a blaze of indignation. We’d forgotten she was there since she was hidden for most of the first part of the show. Her anger and cynical humour at people’s perceptions of vaginas were entertaining and poignant.

Aloma “Fatty Dan” Cadougan’s portrayal of a woman’s rediscovery of her vagina through the eyes of a VERY enlightened man was both extremely funny and quite touching. Having had a bit of trouble finding her lines at the beginning of her piece (opening night jitters I guess), Fatty Dan caught herself splendidly and went on to engage the audience’s attention completely.

Collette Jones – the woman responsible for putting the whole show together – portrayed the broken shell of a Bosnian refugee whose body was used and discarded by countless soldiers. The passionate anger of this one woman entranced the audience so much that there were tears in some people’s eyes.

I could go on for pages about the actresses’ performances, their simple yet germane costumes, and the obviously intense and quality direction they received from Jones.

The Attic was the perfect setting for this play. The intimacy and ambience of this venue all worked to the actresses’ advantage – they were not distanced from the audience; they were among us, part of us. The lighting was somewhat basic and many times the actresses were shadowed – something that was a bit of an annoyance for me. However, this was minor – the force of their performances more than made up for it. Perhaps Jones and her cast will reprise their roles in the New Year.

In all, the Monologues was a complete success. The actresses clearly worked hard to bring us entertainment with quality, class and relevance. I’m very much looking forward to Jones’ next endeavour. Those of you who missed The Vagina Monologues, missed one of the highlights of entertainment and drama in St. Vincent for this year – for many years in fact.

By William Abbott