Monday, 4 October 2010

The Vagina Monologues review. Sue Jenkins, Nikki Sanderson, Roxanne Pallett

The Vagina Monologues
"The Ultimate Girls Night Out"
Assembly Hall Theatre
Tunbridge Wells
4th October 2010

Cast (alphabetical surname order)

Sue Jenkins
Roxanne Pallett
Nikki Sanderson

No, in the normal course of things this probably wouldn't have been on my list of  shows to see. But it was the excellent casting which was the attraction here.

Anyway remember I'd met Roxanne Pallett with my wife after Rock Around The Clock just weeks before? Well I told her I was tempted to go but wasn't too overstruck if I was going to be the only bloke in the audience. "Oh don't worry about that" came the words from that angelic little face "we've had loads of blokes along. Yes it's mainly women of course but I reckon about 10% men."

"10% eh? I'll give it a shot then" I thought.

10%! where the heck did Roxanne get taught mathematics? Wherever it was don't send your kids there!

Well going to the show with my good lady, no I wasn't the only bloke. But scouring a very packed auditorium I made it 9 men out of an audience that I reckon was around 600-650 or about 1.5%!

I couldn't resist, after the show, ribbing Ms Pallett about the slight mathematical discrepancy to which she said in horror "10%! Did I really say that!". Well yes love you did.... but did I care?.....not a bit!

One guy, however, did look extremely uncomfortable. He kept his head down throughout the show and looked as though he wished his chair would swallow him and just spit him out at the end.

At the beginning of the second half the performers welcomed the audience back acknowledging the few brave (or stupid?) men who had attended asking all the ladies to give us a round of applause. Seemed funny in this often humorous show about the 'private parts'. So many women, so few men and they thank us by giving us all the clap!

Anyway lets rewind! It's a simple set 3 stools, 3 ladies, 3 microphones and 3 hosts talking against a backdrop of twinkly lights. Not many props to manage then. But props and Roxanne Pallett clearly don't mix. The poor girl had problems with her microphone which seemed to have a life of its own. Quite hilarious it was as every time she spoke into it off it went veering away from her.

But even funnier was the moment when during her delivery of one of the monologues I think she was going through the motions of 'looking for her vagina' when she overbalanced and fell head first off the stool. Nice one Roxy it added a moment of fun leading into a serious part of the show.

The Vagina Monologues is described as "The Ultimate Girls Night Out". Sounds like a laugh a minute experience doesn't it? An hour an a half of laughter and man bashing with your girlfriends.

Many people had a big surprise tonight and clearly hadn't done any research on what the Vagina Monologues exactly is.

Eve Enslers's episodic play is the delivery of a series of monologues written following interviews undertaken with women and girls about their "vaginal experiences".

Yes some are funny, very funny. But equally some are disturbing, sobering subjects such as incest, rape, genital mutilation and similar horrific acts.

It wasn't only the guy at the end of my row who looked a bit uncomfortable. Perhaps from personal experience or surprise at this graphic content many women in the audience looked increasingly shocked at some of the monologues. Just before the first interval you could hear some people leaving the auditorium. They did not return for part 2.

To be honest it's a shame they didn't because the good cause behind the monologues is explained and therefore understood more from watching part 2. Every showing of the monologues raises money for V-Day a non profit organization which supports womens' anti-violence support groups and similar. The current total raised is $50 million+

I thought it odd that there was no programme for this show. A chance for a bit more fund raising goes amiss together with the opportunity to explain why the monologues cover both the good and serious aspects of the female genitalia. I am sure even the simplest of publications may prevent some women leaving.

The very lovely Sue Jenkins, Roxanne Pallett, Nikki Sanderson, Vagina MonologuesI think the comments of many women in the interval summed it up "I didn't know what to expect but it wasn't that". Similar comments could be heard everywhere. As a bloke I'd clearly done more research into this play than many of the women in this audience.

On balance though this 'play' has a good balance between the most awful tragic stories and some of the funniest scenes I have ever seen on a stage.

It was also good to see these 3 former soap stars able to display an incredible range of emotions, diverse accents and to be able to switch from one character to another instantly. There's nothing wrong with soaps but watching them you only normally get to see a small part of what the performer is capable of.

Sue Jenkins I am sure won't be offended if I call her mummy of the group. Included in her monologues are the childbirth script and 'reclaiming cunt' a monologue which tries to make this most vile of words more entertaining. It is entertaining but I don't think anything could ever make this word nice. Hopefully this is the only time I will ever type it in any review.

When she isn't fighting microphones off and falling on the floor Roxanne Pallett also had her equal share of the dialogue again with a mixture of happy and sad tales.

Now all 3 ladies are wonderful actresses who put on a superb show but last night I happened to find a review from another male reviewer who agrees with me. Nikki Sanderson is a revelation in this. Orgasmically incredible in fact.

Seen the movie When Harry Met Sally? You don't need Meg Ryan any more. No Nikki makes Meg Ryan look like a pure amateur in the orgasm department. I used to find Nikki's character of Candice Stowe in Corrie somewhat boring, perhaps because she was never given a really meaty storyline?

Last night the crowd saw what Nikki can do if offered something meaty. The different types of 'moaning orgasm' scene lasted for ages and was utterly brilliant. Peeking through her tussled hair at the end she says "and to think I get to do this 6 nights a week for 12 weeks!"

I did tell her at the end I'd gladly watch her 'orgasm' every night for the next 6 weeks too. Not a blush in sight -well not from her anyway! And my wife is still talking to me! (I can't walk very well but she is talking to me!) :)

I'll go back to serious stuff for a moment though as it does seem ironic that this production is understandably aimed at women but is raising money for damage that is, on the whole, caused by the male of our species. That should make any male who actually has the nerve to attend this show feel a bit more comfortable. You are doing your bit to stop women enduring abuse at many stages in their lives.

In fact I remain puzzled about that 'Ultimate Girls Night Out' label. It's hardly a party and this is educational for both sexes as well as entertaining. It also seems such a waste that so many men won't get to see some incredible acting.

Did I enjoy it? Yes I did..... but I think I was better prepared than many of the predominantly female audience as I knew what was coming (no pun intended).

On a minor point I found the 'clit fact' audience participation bit all a bit odd. Don't know why that should be... can't quite put my finger on it! (pun intended!).

Thanks girls it was a great show, both funny and sobering in equal proportions (Roxanne, that's 50% each!)

As a footnote I do wish theatres and artists would stop people getting photos and other stuff signed at the Stage Door unless they have had the decency to see the show. Apart from us NOBODY had viewed this performance. Britt Ekland is a lady with the right idea "Not seen it? Then I'm not signing it!" All it takes is a glance at theatre tickets or a question about the show to filter out the 'eBay sellers' who ruin the Stage Door experience for genuine theatre lovers.
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