Women’s Day is upon us, and what better way to celebrate it than to pay homage to one of the most fundamental features that defines womanhood. Nanette Brimmer and her wonderful cast will be presenting to us Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues, a hilarious yet poignant collection of speeches which discuss the many blessings and challenges of having a female’s biological make up. Ms Brimmer and up-and-coming actress Mrs Steffi Thake gave us their insights on the piece.
What have you learnt from working on this piece of theatre? How has it changed you?
Nanette: I’ve learnt to be more comfortable with uttering all the various, and rather colourful, alternative names for the vagina. It has changed me because I have become slightly less inhibited and more aware of gender inequality. I’m now aware that in the 21st century, women in African and Middle Eastern countries are deprived of almost any rights, that they are still forced to undergo atrocious rituals and mutilations to their bodies. And that similar atrocities were also happening in Europe, merely 20 odd years ago… Yes, The Vagina Monologues also deals with stuff like that…
Steffi: Funnily enough I’ve found out that a lot of the thoughts that I’ve had about my vagina which I keep to myself are thoughts that all women have, but we just don’t talk about them. We see them as very personal things, which they are. But working with this group of women I’ve found myself willing to open up more and speak about myself more than I might have done in the past.
What are you hoping the audience will take from the performance?
Nanette: First and foremost, I hope they will appreciate it and what it stands for. I’m also hoping they sympathise, if not empathise, with the various situations. The monologues are real stories told by real women and arranged for performance. Some are humourous, others quite explicit and some are very profound and moving. I hope our audiences get a feeling of all these emotions. I hope it raises one’s consciousness and that our audiences leave feeling liberated and a little less inhibited.
Steffi: I’m hoping that they’ll take the same thing I did – a freedom to talk and be more open about themselves. A freedom to talk about abuse, pleasure, love, sex… etc. without feeling like they’ve just opened up a can of terribly smelly sardines.
The Vagina Monologues is often classified as a feminist piece of theatre. Would you say it touches upon other themes?
Nanette: In the 90s, it was described as “probably the most important piece of political theatre of the last decade.” The monologues are vignettes, glimpses into the secrets and pleasures of women of all ages, all ethnicities and all walks of life. The message throughout is that women should embrace and love and defend their bodies. For those men who may have reservations about this production – The Vagina Monologues create a collage of experiences that women as well as men can relate to.
Steffi: Fish. Fish and water are the two biggest verbal themes in the whole play. Fish are mentioned in almost every monologue. But apart from that, I think that this is a good way to get men in on the action. A lot of men don’t seem to understand the pains that women go through. This is a good, graphic and emotional way of getting it across.
As an actor/director, what inclined you to take on this production?
Nanette: I think it’s really important for us to be honest with ourselves, with who we are as people, whether it’s good or bad. It’s really freeing, profoundly liberating in a way for us to accept ourselves for what we really are. The Vagina Monologues is not a salacious show. It has the kind of erotic intelligence that goes with a mature, emotional life. It is a glorious show: warm, open, exciting, enchantingly funny… and honest.
Steffi: I’ve known about the Vagina Monologues for a very long time. As small a part as I have in this production, it means the world to me to be a part of something so important. I’ve always wanted to be involved in it if it was ever done again, and here I am.