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If you told me that there would be an occasion on which I wouldn’t enjoy half-an-hour of two women talking about their vaginas and pubic hair via webcam, I’d find that hard to believe. But, after almost a year of virtual theatre, I think my standards are starting to creep a little bit higher.
The Vagina Duologues is a piece comprised of three ten-minute duologues, in which we see Grace O’Keefe and Erin Holland connect across the pond as Coronavirus repeatedly rears its ugly head. As the title suggests, they initially talk about little else, other than their vaginas, but thankfully towards the end, a much more insidious side effect of lockdown is introduced; the strain it puts on relationships, both romantic and otherwise.
The show claims to address sexism, healthcare and politics, but I struggle to see where any of this was achieved – unless responding to Boris Johnson cancelling Christmas with “what a fucking prick” counts as political discourse? I think I speak for most people in Britain when I say that cancelling Christmas is approximately #857 on the list of ‘Things Boris Johnson Has Done This Year That Make Him a Fucking Prick.’
It seems as though The Vagina Duologues thinks it is being provocative and brave simply by talking brazenly about all things vagina: waxing, shaving, hair removal cream, menstrual cups, periods, bush-growing, the whole lot. But these things were just mentioned, rather than discussing the problems that surround them, and so it feels as though little is actually said. The Vagina Duologues feels like the Goop of feminist plays.
Both written and performed by O’Keefe and Holland, the script, for me, is a little bit twee. I feel that we’ve moved beyond simply discussing our vaginas or growing a bit of hair in a radical act of feminism, and I yearn for more than this. Perhaps a decade ago this might’ve had more of an impact, but this particular Sex and the City/Bridget Jones style of feminism – in which we merely aren’t scared to talk about our sexuality and our vaginas anymore – seems a bit dated. Acting and presence wise, both women are fantastic, and it seems as though they’re not afraid to push boundaries, so it’s a shame to see their talent and will not reach its full potential.
The final duologue, and the last ten minutes of the show, is the most impactful. Here lies the greatest potential for proper emotional impact, as Grace’s life seems to be coming together, while Erin’s (back in Blighty) is truly falling apart. I can’t help but feel that exploring this aspect of their story would have made for a more rousing piece; discussing female friendships under the strain of not only the natural wax and wane of life, but now coronavirus also, rather than talking about almost waxing off their right labia majora.
The Vagina Duologues is streaming online as part of The Living Record festival until 22 February. For more information and tickets, visit The Queens of Cups website.