Lit Live brings the iconic ‘The Vagina Monologues’ to Fringe World

Warning: This article contains mentions of sexual assault.

American playwright Eve Ensler shook the world in 1996 with a collection of stories about vaginas.

The Vagina Monologues quickly became a prolific work after its release, bringing together women and gender diverse people to share their stories about sexuality, gender, genitals and body image over the last 25 years.

Lit Live are revisiting the iconic work once again at this year’s Fringe World Festival, bringing these stories to the stage once again, drawing on over 200 interviews on the subject.

We caught up with actor and writer Sarah McNeill to find out more about what this show means a quarter of a century on.

Why do you think The Vagina Monologues still resonate with audiences in 2021?

Even though we have progressed in so many ways personally and sexually over the last 25 years, it is both surprising and shocking that it is still necessary to promote the idea that women and their vaginas are not public property!

According to Amnesty International rape is still considered a legitimate tactic of war. And in the last decade, Australia’s rate of sexual abuse has increased by 30% – and in theory we are not at war.

We need to challenge these statistics and The Vagina Monologues does it in a way that is both entertaining and funny as well as meaningful and provocative.

You performed this last in 2002, how does it feel to be tackling this work again two decades later?

I was nervous going back to the script, wondering how much of it might have dated, but was delighted to discover very little had. I’m also happy that I get to do my most favourite monologue again!

Do you remember your first time seeing this work? How did it resonate with you?

The first time I knew of it was the first time I performed in it. Even 19 years ago it was considered to be quite challenging, but it was amazing and thrilling to see the number of women who came on board for a show that just kept running and running. It culminated in a V-Day performance with 24 of Perth’s most impressive women including the then-arts minister Sheila McHale. It resonated with every woman who appeared on stage for it, and every woman who saw it.

You simply can’t have a better show than that.

The work draws on over 200 interviews – what kinds of stories are featured in The Vagina Monologues?

The monologues are drawn from a broad range of subjects and ideas. They range from generally contentious issues around hair to how much women actually know of and explore their vaginas – how they might dress them and what vaginas might say if only they could talk!

There’s one very moving one based on interviews with women over the age of 75, and one fabulous one about a man who worships vaginas.

How do queer & trans/gender diverse stories play into the work?

There are two really important stories in this collection. One is about how an abused young girl who believes her vagina brings nothing but pain and trouble is introduced to the pleasure of it by another woman. There’s also a monologue about a sex worker who only works with women. Culminating in vocal orgasms it’s the highlight of the show!

This is not man-hating show – it is simply a vagina-loving show!

The Vagina Monologues are playing at Fringe World until Saturday 30th January. For more info head to fringeworld.com.au


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