Science - March 27, 2008

‘Anyone thought of ovulation recently?’

‘If your vagina could talk, what would it say in two words?’ asks one of the actresses. The others respond with answers like ‘Come inside’, ‘That’s better’ and ‘Where’s Brian?’
The Wageningen Women’s Theatre performed Women, Women, Women to a full house in LA13 on Wednesday 19 March. The play, loosely based on The Vagina Monologues, was provocative and enthusiastically received.

Members of the Wageningen Women’s Theatre perform Women, Women, Women.
Eight women are sitting, walking and standing around on a sober stage, furnished with a few chairs and chests. They confront the audience with intimate issues, and are not afraid to make eye-contact. One actress philosophises about menstruation – ‘a punishment for not getting pregnant’ – menopause and wonder bras. ‘Women try to make their breasts look like an ass, so you could say it’s a kind of bottom mimicry, she reasons. Back in the days when we became a two-legged species, breasts were the answer to the problem of how to attract males from the front.’ She turns to the audience: ‘Anyone thought of ovulation recently?’ There are regular outbursts of laughter throughout the play.

Women, Women, Women is bold and outspoken, as is the acting. Serious issues are addressed as well, from plastic surgery to violence against women throughout the world. The women on stage really stand up for the female genitals and therein lies the strength of the performance. It is fast paced, so there’s no chance of boredom creeping in. For director Riti Hermán Mostert, who is doing a flexible master’s on Development, Social change and Theatre, putting on the play was an exciting experience. ‘You cannot force this play onto actresses. We went through a long process before we decided we were really going to go ahead.’

The Wageningen Women’s Theatre uses parts of Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues. In addition, one part was written by one of the actresses and other small pieces were developed by the actresses jointly. This performance was to mark International Women’s Day, but it’s also an appetiser for the festival Sex Makes the Difference about gender-related issues in developing countries. Otherwise, a small NGO that aims to create a dialogue on development, is organising this festival in May, and Women, Women, Women will be shown again on 8 May.

‘It is also a provocative play,’ claims Liselotte van Steenis, one of the actresses. She is Dutch and is studying International Development. ‘Here in Wageningen everything seems a little conservative when it comes to sex and women’s issues. So it is great to step over that line and do something that might provoke a response. We did lots of group stuff and had many conversations and rehearsals. We saw that there are many different expectations in society about women, and that’s what we try to show.’

Marta Rica Izquierdo from Spain, an Erasmus student doing Environmental Sciences, enjoyed the group work and funny games they did as preparation. As she puts it, she forgot that she was ‘talking about cunt’ in front of an audience. ‘When you’re acting, it doesn’t seem so personal.’ As the show reaches its climax the women start performing different moans, like the ‘climbing uphill moan’, the ‘bored moan’ and the ‘tortured Zen moan’. The audience laugh their heads off. The imitation of the Spanish moan must be very realistic too, as it causes the Spanish members of the audience to double up with laughter.

Re:act