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Writer Charlotte Boan meets Diane Keen, Terri Dwyer and Hollie-Jay Bowes, the new stars of the smash hit Vagina Monologues
10:00pm Friday 20th September 2013 in News
Three generations of British television actors - Diane Keen, Terri Dwyer and Hollie-Jay Bowes - bring to life deeply human, hilarious, outrageous, and emotive stories in the hit show The Vagina Monologues, which is coming to Radlett Centre next week.
The Vagina Monologues was written by celebrated New York playwright Eve Ensler nearly 20 years ago, drawing together interviews with more than 200 women. Unravelling the deep thoughts and feelings behind her interviewees’ experiences of love, sex, abuse and sexuality, Ensler originally delivered the monologues as a one-woman show in 1996.
Since then it has taken on a life of its own, attracting famous names such as Meryl Streep, Glenn Close, Oprah Winfrey, Susan Sarandon, Whoopi Goldberg, and Jane Fonda in the US and Kate Winslet, Maureen Lipman, Jerry Hall and Jenni Éclair in the UK.
As a piece of work, The Vagina Monologues is certainly more risqué in its subject than most mainstream plays. Nonetheless, the three of them feel comfortable standing on stage and delivering explicit content in the show, which also unapologetically drops in the c-word.
“I’m not a wall flower, I’m quite comfortable with the subject and these things do not frighten me,” says Terri, 39. “Thank goodness I have grown up in a much more open society. I remember when I was younger my mum was too embarrassed to talk about sex because her generation didn’t talk about it.”
Diane grew up in Africa witnessing first-hand how suppressed and shocking the lives of women there can be.
“You do have characters to hide behind in the play, so that makes it easier,” she says. “I think you care less about what people think as you get older and you hopefully become wiser.”
Hollie-Jay believes growing up in her generation in such an open and honest family helps overcome any hang-ups.
“Luckily I’m not very prudish, so it didn’t really shock me,” she laughs. “Shortly after I was cast, I was sitting with my nana, aunty and cousin. My nana suddenly said: ‘It’s going to be weird seeing you on stage talking about your lady bits.’ Then my auntie said: ‘Lady bits!?’ Then it started. Everyone was having a conversation about their lady bits. I thought, oh well, if you can get a load of women sitting in a room comfortably talking about it to each other that’s a good thing.”
“As a piece of work, it’s brilliant,” Diane continues. “The underlying current in the play itself may not be hysterical – there are some really sad stories in there - but I was absolutely hooting with laughter when I first read the script.”
Terri agrees: “I think sometimes with women, humour is their coping mechanism. It is inspir¬ing that these women have had terrible things happen to them, but they can talk about it and sometimes laugh about it.”
The cast laughs off any suggestion that the play is just for open-minded women and sees it as their mission to prove that The Vagina Monologues is for every age and gender and is looking forward to seeing lots of men in the audience.
“That’s really serious stuff down there,” says Terri, referring to women’s sexual make-up. “A man really needs to know about it and this is a fun and intelligent way to learn.
“If you’re really not comfortable talking about sex, though, you may want to have quite a large glass of wine before you come.”
Diane believes the success and longevity of the show is testament to how things are changing for the better for women.
“I think it’s fantastic that a play such as this can actually be written and performed and become so successful that it does world tours,” she says. “I think that’s an enormous achievement and a huge step forward.”
Terri adds: “I read the script feeling I wanted to do more for women who are not so lucky. It would be wonderful to see The Vagina Monologues in countries where women are oppressed – wouldn’t that be real liberation?”
- The Vagina Monologues comes to the Radlett Centre, Aldenham Avenue, Radlett on Wednesday, September 25 at 8pm. Details: radlettcentre.co.uk
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