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Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva… review at Ovalhouse – ‘an autobiographical exploration of female sexuality’

Sara Alexander and Bella Heesom in Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself at Ovalhouse. Photo: David Monteith Hodge

Bella Heesom’s autobiographical show employs a long, eye-catching title – Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva the Young Woman Applauded Herself – to explore a very simple concept: an exhortation for ladies to love their vaginas.

If they’re to do this, women need to free themselves from the bad messages surrounding their sexuality. Accompanied on stage by the likeable and funny Sara Alexander, Heesom takes an autobiographical journey into her own past and the unhelpful values she internalised growing up such as: “only boys masturbate” and “don’t be a slut, but don’t be frigid”.

After concentrating on her younger years, the narrative briefly alights on Heesom’s adult attempts to be sexy with the help of sexy lingerie, sexy dancing and sexy body hair removal. Similarly, Donnacadh O’Briain’s production tries out a variety of styles, flitting between comedic passages in which Heesom performs as her brain and Alexander as her clitoris (complete with flashing fuchsia headdress), flashback scenes and gorgeous choreographed sequences where the warring parts of Heesom literally fight one another.

Not all of this works. There’s a satisfying 60-minute work hidden inside what is currently a bushy 90-minute show, followed by a 45-minute open session for audience discussion. The focus on the shit that teenage boys say suggests it would work excellently performed in schools.

Heesom goes on to discuss ideas of ancient feminine worship and its divine link to abundant nature, something also hinted at by Elizabeth Harper’s lady garden set design. But this glimpse of a complex, spiritual, adult version of sexuality is frustratingly brief.

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Verdict
Intriguing autobiographical piece about female sexuality that’s overly focused on the teenage experience
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