Theatre: Curtain Calls

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The Independent Culture
What's in a name? Well, playwright Peter Weiss survived the cumbersome title of his play The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade, but only because it was known as Marat/Sade.

My all-time favourite is the production from the Manchester Festival of Expressionist Drama: I Was Mrs Danvers' Love Child, but that's another story. If you've been checking out theatre in, say, New York, or Jerusalem, you may have come across one of the more arresting titles de nos jours: The Vagina Monologues.

Author and performer Eve Ensler (above) is clear about the resonances surrounding this. " `Vagina' is one of the most despised words in the language. There's so much contempt for it. You can put `massive slaughter' on the front of a magazine and nobody worries, but vagina? It's not a dirty word, it's a body part."

She's also clear that it has nothing to do with shock value. No one is being seduced into the theatre under false pretences. Not even when it was the centerpiece of a gala starring Whoopi Goldberg, Glenn Close and Susan Sarandon. Celebrity endorsement doesn't come much classier.

`The Vagina Monologues', at the King's Head, London N1 (0171-226 1916) from 26 Jan