Review: The Vagina Monologues Meets The F Word (360 Productions)

Toronto’s Buddies in Bad Times Theatre presents shorts and vignettes highlighting women’s issues

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Today is International Women’s Day, when we focus on the accomplishments and social issues regarding women. To me, it’s ridiculous to have one day in March dedicated to half of the world’s population. Every day is Women’s Day! Every day we should demand respect and attention to injustices across the world. The Vagina Monologues Meets The F Word brings up these injustices and shows us that they should be a part of our daily conversations.

The Vagina Monologues are shorts written by Eve Ensler where women confess about, well, their vaginas. The content can be raunchy, funny, emotional, or all of the above. Each vagina has its own tale to tell. However, Buddies in Bad Times Theatre wasn’t just hosting The Vagina Monologues. The show was being blended with The F Word, which is currently celebrating its 5th anniversary. The F Word is a series of vignettes that explore controversies and issues dealing with women around the world. Together the Vagina Monologues and The F Word combined into a frenzy of female empowerment. So, when I had this opportunity to gain this merit badge for my feminist sash, I jumped at the chance.

The performance can be described as a female-centric variety show. There is singing, dancing, skits, jokes, speeches, and a lot of women. The cast is so big that I’d feel guilty singling one of them out. The songs and choreographed dances by Sheena Seah were fun and cheeky. These moments helped lighten the mood after a heavy vignette. The three Vagina Monologues shorts Because He Liked To Look, My Angry Vagina, The Woman Who Loved To Make Vaginas Happy were spot on. They were well-performed and absolutely entertaining.

The portions of The F Word added a lot more drama with performances of Force, Fallen, Fancy, and Face. These vignettes took on tough topics like rape, suicide, mental illness, sex trafficking, child molestation, and violent oppression. These unique narratives blend fiction and reality together. The messages are heavy-handed, but I think that they believe these messages shouldn’t be hidden with subtlety. They are trying to get these messages to hit home and sit at the bottom of your stomach like a ball of lead. They are supposed to shake you. I had to put aside my desire for narrative ambiguity, because I know this isn’t an ordinary sketch show. This wasn’t just done for giggles. These are messages these women believe should be told.

The only issue I had with the show was the balancing of heavy issues and humour. In a few cases, the meshing of serious and silly didn’t work for me. The vignette Feet is about a shoe saleswoman, who is by far one of the funniest characters in the show. She killed that performance as an obsessive fashionista who believes beauty is pain and stilettos are mandatory. The ludicrous sketch about women’s fashion begins with a sarcastic lesson in foot binding, but the shocking subject is dropped immediately and doesn’t fit with the side-splitting tone of the rest of the sketch. Please excuse the horrible pun, but the subject felt shoe-horned into the scenario in order to add another message about female oppression. In my opinion, it was distracting from a really good sketch.

I have to give credit to director Jennifer Phillips and assistant director Chrissi Chau for blending song, dance, hilarity, and sobering messages together into an entertaining show. On paper it sounds like a recipe for a mess, but on stage it absolutely works. In the end, the show hit me in the right places. I laughed often. I gasped at the rauchiness. I was stirred by the serious moments. The Vagina Monologues Meets The F Word is fun, frank, and freaky in the best way.

I recommend you see this show, whether you’re male or female. I might actually recommend it more for males. Yes, if you’re a woman you can relate to all the feminine-power on stage, but I think it’s good for men to open up to a different perspective. It’s a good show to help you laugh, learn, and support the women of the world.

Trigger Warning: a lot of topics covered are disturbing. Discussions of suicide, sexual assault, and molestation could be difficult for some audience members.

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Photo by Fee Gunn

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