Let's Talk About Sex

The Vagina Monologues is raising pulses as well as awareness, says Lyra McKee

‘Art For Social Change’ is the concept behind the latest production of The Vagina Monologues, says director Camel Hartley. 'We want to change attitudes and raise sexual awareness. It’s a very powerful piece, because people come away feeling they know more about women and their experiences.'

Every ticket sold for the play, held in Belfast’s Black Box, will help the Northern Ireland Rape Crisis Centre. Stripped of its funding by the Government, the organisation now relies solely on donations and money raised from events to survive. The move touches a raw nerve amongst women across the province. 'If rape isn’t a crisis anymore, then what is?' says actress Jo Prinsen, who is starring in the show.

Currently, workers in the Rape Crisis Centre are trying to keep it up and running, even though they are not being paid.

'Because it’s a feminist play, it’s really suitable', says Hartley. 'The Vagina Monologues does deal with rape, as well as having lots of funny stories, and tragic ones too.

The play is based on the real life experience of women. Playwright Eve Ensler interviewed over 200 women about their past joys and traumas, such as love, rape, childbirth and domestic violence.

The idea to produce it came to Hartley and friend Emilie Weiderud after the International Women’s Day celebrations in Belfast last March. 'The two of us felt like the event wasn’t good enough and that the actual event went unnoticed in Belfast. The disappointment, coupled with the Rape Crisis Centre losing its funding, made us want to do it.'

Hartley points out that these were not the only reasons for doing the play. 'I hope it opens the debate on the role of women in society, and raises awareness about violence against women in this community. But I’m afraid if we go on too much about the feminist side, it will alienate audiences. The best way to make changes is by getting people to come.'

Yet, despite her caution about making audiences uncomfortable, Hartley is still keen to cause some controversy through the play. 'People think this play is a bit extreme, especially in a religious community where sex is seen as sinful. We just want to open the debate. If people want to challenge us, that’s good, because we want to be challenged.'

Despite being assigned the role of director, Hartley says that the actual production of the play has been a team effort, involving the actors as well as herself. 'I wanted to have us all directing it together. Everyone has their own monologue, and do it their own way, so we’ll have all these different voices.'

Running alongside the play is the VaginART exhibition, auctioned on June 27, after the final performance.

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