If there seems to be a disparity between Ensler's dignified appearance - a Louise Brooks bob, a black evening dress - and her subject matter, by the end of an hour she has convinced you that it's all in the mind; part of our cultural conditioning. "Vagina never sounds like a word you'd want to say," she grins, her eyes sealing up in mock embarrassment. It's a place akin to the Bermuda Triangle - "nobody ever reports back from there". She lays siege to this wall of silence with a barrage of wit laced with anger; the set behind her flushes shades of purple and crimson.
The show is overflowing with lists compiled from her interviewees: ways of describing "it": a poochie; a peepee; a dignity (dressing it in mink, Armani, taffeta); of letting it do the talking or moaning. The monologues mostly adopt a quirky tone, but they reveal scarred lives. "The age group between 65 and 75 was the most poignant," she says. Without caricature, she relays the formative experience of a Jewish woman who had barely thought about "down there" since 1953, when an unexpected flood of passion on a car seat elicited revulsion from her first boyfriend.
Apart from a vagina-worshipping guy called Bob, men don't come out of this too well: abusive fathers, obsessive husbands, and most chillingly, soldier-rapists. But the Vagina Monologues are not, in the main, about pointing fingers; they are about showing both sexes where to put them. Ensler leaves you hoping that familiarity will breed a little more respect.
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