Directors and Writers: Erin Holland and Grace O’Keefe
Performed as part of the Living Record Festival, The Vagina Duologues is a series of comedy sketches that details two girls’ experience of living through 2020. Playing themselves, The Queens of Cups’ Erin Holland and Grace O’Keefe star in this two-woman production.
The Vagina Duologues takes place over Zoom calls between Grace and Erin during the pandemic. As the film settles on three separate points in the year – April, July and December – we can recognise our own ‘lockdown journey’ in this play. April starts with good intentions. Lots of face masks and pampering. Grace decides to wax her bikini line as a DIY alternative to a salon visit. The wax goes on easily enough – but then it has to be removed. Panicking over the best wax-off strategy, she dials up her friend, Erin. As she talks her friend through an eye-watering scene of wax removal, Holland muses on the different words used for vagina over the centuries. If you didn’t know that Shakespeare referred to the vagina as a ‘pie corner’, you do now.
The chemistry between Holland and O’Keefe is pitch perfect – their real life friendship feeds into this performance, and they take their comedy right to the edge – Erin declares that “this pandemic is fucking with our vaginas”. This is not comedy for the easily offended, but no subject is off bounds here, and rightly so.
The sketches hold together well – the arc of The Vagina Duologues sees the girls move through the year, and it becomes apparent that not all quarantines are created equal. Through their Zoom calls, we see the girls navigate 2020’s trials. While Grace’s self-care routine starts as a cautionary tale, she heads into December engaged and planning for her wedding, while Erin is newly-single, living with her parents and nursing a case of Covid.
As the play ostensibly starts as a platform to discuss the issues (social, sexual, political) that intersect with the relationship women have with their vaginas, The Vagina Duologues then explores the stress points within a friendship. Holland plays the cool, got-it-all-together pal, while O’Keefe’s slightly frazzled, anxious counterpart is equally recognisable. But rather than stick to these types, Holland and O’Keefe flesh out their characters: the elements of competition and resentment bubbling under the surface are what really hit home. The collateral damage in the girls’ lives as they move through the pandemic puts pressure on their relationship. As cracks emerge, the question is whether the girls will find common ground, or move further apart.
While The Vagina Duologues is a fresh, funny take on women’s relationships with their bodies, the play’s shift into the teetering, uncertain world of 2020 – making its presence felt right from the beginning – underscores the comedy to make a serious point. Our desire to present ourselves in the best light has been exacerbated by our dependency on the virtual world. Filtering out the bad bits doesn’t make them disappear. It is a sense of dissatisfaction with what we see, and what we feel, that is at the centre of this production. Being honest and in the moment takes aim at our need to edit ourselves online and in person. The need to talk – really talk – is what will get us through.
Available here until 22 February 2021
The Living Record Festival runs here from 17 January to 22 February 2021