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Vulvarine

Vulvarine
★★★★★

King’s Head Theatre & UK Tour

Vulvarine

Vulvarine

King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 13th June 2019

★★★★★

 

“Bryony Buckle may be ‘astoundingly average’ but Vulvarine’s cast and direction are anything but”

 

Vulvarine: A New Musical is a superhero comic musical parody which tells the story of Bryony Buckle (Allie Munro), a young woman who lives an exceedingly ordinary life in the uneventful town of High Wycombe. Bryony checks tax codes by day and sips red wine with her cat Elton (Robyn Grant) by night. That is, however, before she is transformed into the superhero Vulvarine following a hormone injection at the doctor’s and a convenient lightning strike.

Following the discovery of an error in the tampon tax, Vulvarine, her best friend Poppy (Katie Wells) and her pretty boy love interest Orson Bloom (Jamie Mawson) must take on the misogynistic Mansplainer (Robyn Grant) and his wife Sonya (Steffan Rizzi) before women in High Wycombe and beyond are made subservient by his Hormone-a-beam.

Through Vulvarine: A New Musical, Artistic Director Robyn Grant aims to highlight the extensive use of hormonal medication amongst women. Grant herself was on the contraceptive pill for period pain from the age of fourteen and it was only ten years later that she became aware of its terrifying side effects. With the rising wave of abortion restrictions in America, Grant hopes Vulvarine will inspire women to take control of their own bodies and revolt against those who wish to restrict womankind. Despite these powerful themes, Vulvarine: A New Musical never takes itself too seriously and succeeds in engaging its audience with these important topics in a fun and light-hearted way.

Vulvarine: A New Musical is exceedingly funny. The cast take a little while to warm up, but the show is soon in full swing with a laugh a minute. The dialogue is quick and hyperaware of the superhero clichés it draws on. Instances of actors breaking the fourth wall such as when a stagehand lifts a chair to demonstrate Vulvarine’s super-strength before looking at the audience, going ‘oops!’ and running off stage are wonderfully humorous additions.

The stage consists of a simple cardboard townscape for most of the show but becomes more elaborate towards the performance’s end with the incorporation of a (cardboard) control panel and shark tank when the protagonists infiltrate Mansplainer’s lair. The props (Hugh Purves) are a lot of fun and include a plastic pigeon on a stick which transports Bryony and Poppy to a park bench and a muppet-style puppet acting as Elton the Cat. At times the stage does seem rather crowded, but the cast work well with the space they have.

Grant shines throughout and Munro is a strong lead. Wells, Mawson and Rizzi all provided excellent support with the former electrifying the stage with the solo ‘Boys will be Boys’. Other notable songs are the Avenue Q-esque ‘Licking My Anus’ performed by Elton the Cat and ‘Who’s that Girl’ performed by both Bryony and Poppy and nicely threaded throughout the musical in multiple reprises. Bryony Buckle may be ‘astoundingly average’ but Vulvarine’s cast and direction are anything but.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by Lidia Crisafulli

 


Vulvarine

King’s Head Theatre until 6th July then UK Tour continues

 

Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Outlying Islands | ★★★★ | January 2019
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com

 

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva
★★★★★

Ovalhouse

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself

Ovalhouse

Reviewed – 13th May 2019

★★★★★

 

“will no doubt provide every viewer with a new perspective on the world”

 

Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself is a frank exploration of female sexuality, self-love and patriarchal expectations directed by Donnacadh O’Briain. Brain/Ego (Bella Heesom) and Clitoris/Appetite (Sara Alexander) battle it out for top spot in the female protagonist’s sex life while the former slowly beats the second into societal submission. The clitoris does not understand why she is seen as dirty and disgusting while the brain also often struggles to comprehend the flawed cultural logic she applies to her own sexual desire.

The play explores snippets of the young woman’s sexual growth from discovering masturbation to entering an unfulfilling relationship with a man who sees her as nothing more than a sex object. The protagonist learns that her sexuality and pleasure are embarrassing at a young age when schoolboys laugh at the idea of performing oral sex on a girl. Familiar phrases about female sexuality periodically flash up on a screen at the back of the stage – Virginity is precious. Vaginas are dirty. Sex is for men.

The play is interspersed with scenes of graceful movement (Liz Ranken) in which Alexander nudges and bites at Heesom as if a lioness. This theme is expanded in a meditation led by Alexander during the show where she uses the raw animalism and beauty of the lioness as an analogy for female sexuality. The screen at the back of the stage too shows the face of a lioness to emphasise this.

After the performance, Heesom and Alexander invite the audience to attend an open discussion to reflect on the issues raised in the play. The experiences enacted in the piece are revealed to be near universal amongst the female audience from being told vaginas smell like fish to feeling the need to satisfy a partner on a special occasion. Heesom and Alexander handle the group conversation with great care and sensitivity, and it is an appreciated and moving addition to the show.

The set (Elizabeth Harper) is well considered and helps to emphasise how natural female sexuality is. Heesom and Alexander move around a beautiful (lady) garden with flowers and plants hanging from the ceiling. The screen shows animated flowers growing and dying to reflect the revelations made on stage. The ground is covered in dark pebbles and a rectangular pool of water runs along the back of the stage. A wooden swing hangs in the back-left corner and reminds the audience that these harmful ideas about female sexuality are fed to us since childhood.

Heesom and Alexander are both stars and their chemistry is incredible. The two women move effortlessly between witty back and forth as Brain and Clitoris to sensual moments wrestling on the ground. Heesom’s final speech as the societally battered Clitoris is particularly powerful as she strips off her clothes and attacks the patriarchal constructs that have made female sexuality shameful. Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself will no doubt provide every viewer with a new perspective on the world.

 

Reviewed by Flora Doble

Photography by David Monteith-Hodge

 

Ovalhouse

Rejoicing at her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself

Ovalhouse until 26th May

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:
Medea Electronica | ★★★ | January 2018
Random Selfies | ★★★ | March 2018
This Restless State | ★★★ | March 2018
Standard:Elite | ★★★★★ | May 2018
Austerity & Me | ★★★★ | June 2018
The Croydon Avengers | ★★★ | June 2018
Undersong | ★★★★★ | June 2018
A Pocketful of Bread | ★★★ | September 2018

 

Click here to see more of our latest reviews on thespyinthestalls.com