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THE VAGINA MONOLOGUES (article first published : 2004-03-18)

Eve Ensler’s Obie Award-winning play, The Vagina Monologues originally enjoyed a sold-out run at Off Broadway’s Westside Theatre and on London’s West End. Now running in theatres all over North America, it has initiated V-Day, a global movement to stop violence against women.

Well-known South African theatre producer and entertainer Dawn Lindberg was invited to be part of the first V-Day celebrations in South Africa in 2001. Eve Ensler flew out from the USA for the event and was so impressed by Dawn’s commitment and contribution to South African theatre and women’s rights that she awarded Dawn the Southern African rights for her production.

Currently running at the Elizabeth Sneddon Theatre, The Vagina Monologues won Best Ensemble Production at the first Naledi Theatre Awards held recently in Midrand. It goes on to play the Klein Karoo Festival.

Directed by Dawn Lindberg, The Vagina Monologues has a fine cast. There’s the inimitable Dawn herself, endearing in a sketch about an old lady; tall and elegant Rachel Tambo with the arresting voice; feisty Tselane Tambo who is a riveting performer; diminutive and sparkling Rosie Motene, and delightful Nqobile Sipamla who I would have been happy to hear singing twice as much as she did.

The production is based on over 200 interviews with a diverse group of women worldwide. The monologues are either presented as such or as duologues or ensemble pieces, linked with song. Tselane and Rosie handled a dialogue between children particularly well. While there are moments that are tender, funny, whacky, serious or downright explicit, overall the show is a blazing anthem to womankind.

In between the sketches are the “bad news stories” when Dawn presents the horrifying statistics surrounding sexual abuse, despite official figures to the contrary. It's a difficult show to describe but my feeling is that it's a powerful lecture demonstration through racy and witty entertainment on a vitally important subject.

The cast uses the full EST stage, which is considerable, the only setting being five metallic chairs. Changes of mood are created through lighting. Occasionally the performances were marred by unnecessary backstage noise.

In a moving close, Dawn invites those members of the audience to rise who were subjected to sexual abuse as children. And they did.

The show contains no nudity or graphic accounts of sexual behaviour although it does dwell on the vagina rather heavily! The male members of the audience appeared to enjoy themselves and didn’t display signs of being threatened in any way.

The Vagina Monologues runs from March 16 to 20. Shows Tuesday to Friday at 20h00 and Saturday at 18h00 and 20h30. Tickets R75 booked at Computicket, credit cards on 011 340 8000. Get into the theatre early-ish because there is a fascinating slide show of images titled Prelude Nudes from Art compiled by Dawn Lindberg. These range from the classic to the contemporary and include works that are sexy and sensual and occasionally more than fairly graphic! – Caroline Smart




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