A CURIOUSLY UPLIFTING 'ENTERTAINMENT'
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer: Writings To Stop Violence Against Women and Girls
Writings To Stop Violence Against Women and Girls
co-edited by Eve Ensler and Mollie Doyle
presented by V-Day Wellington 2012
at Meow, Edward St CBD, Wellington
From 28 Apr 2012 to 30 Apr 2012
Reviewed by John Smythe, 29 Apr 2012
It's not part of the comedy festival but A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer, written by world-renowned authors and playwrights, and performed by our own actors and politicians, is insightful, true, moving, amusing and only on three times (Sat, Sun, Mon); the maximum allowed for a V-Day Event.
Although the title implies four pieces, an online script published in 2009 (three years after the concept's New York premiere) offers 107, not including the Spotlight Monologue which Eve Enlser updates every year and Erin Banks reads to launch this Wellington Rape Crisis fundraiser – for which 11 have been selected. Her litany of violent acts against women focuses our minds on the issue at hand.
But we are not brow-beaten with didactic polemics. Each piece captures a spirit of being human in a series of recognisable situations, provoking empathy for those involved and heightening our awareness of why and how such things come to pass.
Co-directed by Fiona McNamara and Stevie Wildwood, the readers all pitch their chosen monologue simply and to great effect, and no allowances have to be made for the non-actor politicians either. All 11 on the opening night (of the season's 14 participants) use their skills to put the focus where it should be: on the story.
First Kiss by Mollie Doyle (co-editor with Ensler), read by Isobel McKinnon, tells of a six year-old girl's experience at a sports camp, and alerts us to the power of peer groups and the mob, as well as the predatory adult counsellor.
A story heard in Uganda inspiredBanana Beer Bath (Lynn Nottage / Jean Sergent). The three beautiful Elem sisters take refuge in – and I do mean in – their father's back yard brew as the singing, marching rebels approach. The horror of what ensues ferments potently beneath the surreal and darkly comic tale.
Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Nicholas D Kristof revisits Phnom Penh, Cambodia, with hisUntitled experience (Martyn Wood; Charles Chauvel, 29th), uncomfortably aware that while it generates a New York Times article about child prostitution, it leaves him having to cope with the lore that journalists are there to report but not get involved.
Meteria Turei, with her script lovingly mounted on appropriately-shaped cards, revels in Respect by Kimberly Krenshaw, where the role of black vaginas in "building this country" (the USA) is honoured in the context of a history that once decreed sex with a black women could not be rape.
In Looking for the Body Music (Michael Klein / Ricky Dey) the daughter of alcoholic vaudevillians discovers, at boarding school, that being fat is a hanging offence – hung by her feet from a dormitory window, that is. So much for protecting her from the violence her mother is subjected to at home.
The thrill a flirtatious young woman finally experiences on Blueberry Hill (Christine House / Hannah Banks) in the face of a gang of drunken youths, is the powerful and empowering resolution to a dramatic and tension-filled story.
Maurice – "a popular senior with a 'fro, with a van" – is the testosterone-driven boy Kathy Najimby's story decodes, as her "fat teenager with questionable hair" (Ally Garrett), behaving as she thinks she ought to also be popular, deals to his persistence in a K-Mart carpark.
The focus shifts from "art attacks" to self harm with The Destruction Artist (Michael Cunningham / Uther Dean), another of the stories that confronts our sense of responsibility towards each other even when 'consent' appears to have been granted.
Rescue (Mark Matousek / Salesi Le'ota; Grant Robertson, 29th) offers a young brother's perspective on sexual violence perpetrated on his mother and sisters.
Jan Logie (Stella Reid on the 29th) gives Eve Ensler the last word with Fur Is Back, in which 'the party question' – "What's up?" – is answered honestly by a woman who wants to be "a funny, laughing, invited-to-the-party person" except she is angry, and therefore an embarrassment to the friend her brought her.
Any fears that this will be an emotionally torrid, heavy-duty affair, are not borne out. A spirited celebration of positive humanity infuses proceedings as we are invited to engage with a multitude of experiences and perspectives by way of checking our own moral compass, how we are in our own worlds and what we contribute to make it better.
A Memory, A Monologue, A Rant and A Prayer is a curiously uplifting 'entertainment' that handsomely rewards your ticket-price contribution to Wellington Rape Crisis. Highly recommended.
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News.