This was a production full of promise, but also sadly one that was not quite “there”. It was under rehearsed and in places clumsy, with some underpowered monologues that lacked drive and some that we so full of energy that unfortunately they went too far the other way and came across as “hammy”. This was a shame, because there was some real acting talent here. It felt like it could have been a great production, had it had just a week or two more.
The success of the Vagina Monologues rests on timing and pace, and ultimately this is where the underpreparation showed the most. The opening lists were too slow and lacked rhythm which was a shame because it overshadowed the lovely touch of adding to these lists the names for vaginas in various Oxford colleges.
Of the monologues, The Flood and The Vagina Workshop were overplayed, losing their touching confessional quality in favour of laughs. Jo Murray’s slightly manic, energetic presentation was right-on for The Women Who Loved to Make Vagina’s Happy (although the styling for this was wrong- she looked like an air hostess not a kinky corporate dominatrix) which was nothing short of virtuosic in her enthusiastic menu of moans, but this didn’t work for the more intimate Vagina Workshop monologue. Then, on the other hand, I wished the Angry Vagina had been a bit more angry and showed more passion.
Charlie Goodman’s Because He Liked to Look at It and Carolin Kreuzer’s The Little Coochie Snorcher That Could stood out against the rest of the monologues as gentle, natural, touching. They didn’t seem like they were trying too hard, and the moving power of the monologues themselves were able to shine through. The subtlety of both of their performances really captured the personal and confessional intent of Ensler’s vagina monologues concept.
There were also a few bad directorial choices; in the Six Year Old Girl section, the girl and the interviewer kept switching roles which felt unnecessary, and in the My Vagina Was my Village monologue – played very movingly again by Charlie Goodman – there was a voice over through the sound system which was too loud, jarring, and disrupted the quiet mournfulness of the piece. It would have been better if the other actress had been on the stage. It felt as if the technology had been used just because it was there.
Sadly, this was an “almost there” production of the Vagina Monologues, which is a shame because there was so much about the production that was funny, touching and well observed. It just needed to be slicker, sharper and perhaps a bit more carefully handled. The audience enjoyed it, they were laughing along- but this is part of the problem. When underprepared it is easy to go for laughs rather than the more delicate balance of something that is quietly funny but also moving and meaningful. I just wish that this production had had a little bit longer to rehearsal, because it had so much potential.