Last week we introduced you to Marlisa Doubell, Sugar-daddy director and producer taking Cape Town by storm with her production of V-Day. After a successful run of V-Day earlier this year, it’s back for one night only as part of The Cape Town Fringe Festival. V-DAY 2016 is an updated version of The Vagina Monologues. The award-winning play is based on V-Day founder/playwright Eve Ensler’s interviews with more than 200 women. With humour and grace, the piece celebrates women’s sexuality and strength. Through this play and the liberation of this one word, countless women throughout the world have taken control of their bodies and their lives. Not only is this play written and directed by women, the entire cast is female. All proceeds from the performance will be donated to three charities: Rape Crisis, MOSIAC & Saartjie Baartman . We caught up with the cast and asked them a few questions about the production and the women that inspire them.
What does it feel like to be a part of this production?
Sive Gubangxa: There’s something about working with a big cast and an all-female cast that is so empowering and I find it like a celebration. Being in the room with all the women feels like the best way to start the week because we only rehearse on a Sunday. Being part of this story which is women sharing their stories and experiences, I feel it just spark something even performing it. For me, it’s like the beginning of a legacy in a way. I know these stories are old and it’s been happening for years but even the diversity in ages and experiences that is so alive is what makes performing the show so special.
Shannyn Fourie: I’m new to this whole thing with these beautiful women. It’s been a very quick process for me but I’ve already seen a lot of them work and I’ve met them individually. I remember the first time I watched the show, how profoundly it hit me and it hit me in various stages. Initially, it had such an impact of empowerment and then just going home that night, I almost just had to revisit so many things in my past as a woman. It’s left that ripple effect that I’m still, in a sense, trying to understand. Working through the material now has been really exciting and liberating and terrifying. I think it’s a wonderful experience for me so far.
Tamryn Speirs: I think for me, it’s so seldom that women are such a strong ensemble. Generally, there’s a lot of male parts and then a few female parts. To have the opportunity to work with such incredible actors, and a whole female cast and a female director about a female-driven subject, for me is deeply poignant and personal on my journey. That’s definitely why I did it and I am so pleased to be doing it again. On a personal level, in the process of doing this stuff it gets you to address issues that you may feel as a woman. It sparked conversations with friends of mine who came to watch it. It’s like a movement. It’s a revolution in Cape Town.
Melissa Haiden: I think that it makes talking about your vagina not rude. A lot of older people think that it’s coarse and it shouldn’t be spoken about and it just presents it in such an open palatable way that you are drawn into the honesty of what these women really think and feel. When someone is being honest, you cannot help but listen. I did this earlier this year and I felt that I was in a very different stage of life. Different things were going on and it’s only a few months later and now it’s awoken new things in me. I think whenever you see this play, it will make you think or it will resonate with something new. That’s why I think I enjoy it. I think it’s important.
Mikkie-dene Le Roux: It’s a privilege to be a part of this production and be a part of something that is this necessary. What I’ve learned in doing this show earlier this year and now coming back to it is really how I’ve come to have a relationship with my vagina by understanding and embracing other women’s stories. Honouring their stories showed me that I too have to honour and celebrate myself as a woman and celebrate what a vagina is and the power that comes from that. Being a part of this has been incredibly rewarding. I think it’s an incredibly cathartic process to be with powerful, strong, honest women and then to talk on a subject like the Vagina Monologues and then to be guided by Marlisa. I think it’s pieces of joy. It’s been a gift. I’ve really enjoyed it.
Lizanne Peters: I suppose for me personally it’s incredibly challenging. I think that’s why I chose to do it because you have to be so vulnerable and you have to be o.k with that. Like Melissa was saying, it’s rooted in honesty and people can see whether you are being honest or not. To talk about such an intimate part of us as women, it’s not easy to go there and to allow yourself to be there and show it to the world. For that reason, I think it’s an important piece, especially where women find ourselves not only in South Africa but in the global context. There are some atrocities happening and it’s very difficult to stand up as a woman without being labelled. I think this empowers us. Every monologue, every piece that we do, we always feel so strong after it. I think you just want to go out and conquer the world and if no one can take you on, you can take on the world. I think the strength we get from each other as a group is amazing. I was telling some people that I didn’t know who they were before we started on this journey but now there’s this camaraderie that I don’t think you can get anywhere else.
I noticed in your press release that you said something about ‘men shouldn’t be afraid and are also welcome.’ I think some women might also be a little bit afraid of this production. What do you wish people would come into this thinking and what do you want them to take away from this?
Tamryn Speirs: My dad came to watch it. My father is so conservative. I did a play, The Blue Room by David Hare (with Sugar-daddy) and I was naked in it and he couldn’t watch that. He left and yet with this he stayed and he was profoundly moved by it and I think as a conservative man from a previous generation, that I wouldn’t have thought would watch it, it was the men in the audience who I found really incredible how it hit them. The impact that it had on them made me feel like I wanted to do it again.
Sive Gubangxa: I think they should come into it thinking absolutely nothing. Go in there with a clear mind and just try to enjoy it and whatever they come away with when they leave, I think it’s more about just honouring each other as human beings. Women are going to come away from it very differently than men but it’s about honouring and respecting the individual. I think that’s at the core of a lot of the issues that we as people face, is that respect and honour we have for each other. It is a difficult topic, some people find it crude and that it should not be spoken about but there we are, women speaking about it and now what are you going to do? Respect my opinion. Respect my experience. Respect my space. I think that’s what I would hope people will at least see or feel.
Tamryn Speirs: People have different responses. Some people laugh out loud and the laughter helps them work through the discomfort of what they are watching. It might press on issues for them. Others go really quiet and really within and really still and others feel very liberated and excited afterwards. It’s interesting to watch the audience afterwards.
Melissa Haiden: I think most people, if they haven’t seen The Vagina Monologues, they think it is a rant. They think it’s going to be women shouting in protest but it’s not. It’s quiet conversations in people’s living rooms that they have actually had with Eve Ensler. It’s a quiet, honest conversation. It is not protest.
Shannyn Fourie: I’m just saying it makes me feel empowered that I could burn my bra.
Melissa Haiden: That might scare people away and some might people might think it is that but some of these women have actually been allowed to be heard. They don’t feel the need to shout about it. When women are protesting and running down the street burning their bras with banners, it’s because nobody is listening. But here people are listening so they can speak their heart without shouting about it.
Shannyn Fourie: And it’s not anti-men. We want you to understand us better.
I’d like to know if there are any South African female artists who have recently inspired you?
Tamryn Speirs: I recently worked on a film called Tess and the lead actress Christia Visser played a prostitute and again a very sensitive topic and do we put that on the big screen? Lee-Ann Van Rooi was a kind of support and the two of them were incredible in kind of stripping down to the truth of ‘why be a sex worker?’ Again it was another opportunity for us to look at women and how we receive ourselves and how we are received. I played this quite awful mother. Those two women were having a kind of forum, and there were some questions of concern and people were kind of like ‘should we watch this? It’s sensitive.’ Some people were saying maybe we should have a bigger R rating because it was only a 16 and Lee-Ann was like, “Why? This is happening. 1 in 3 women in South Africa has been raped. Why do you want us to put more of a rating on it? Why do you want us to go silent?” That was kind of cool because that was a few weeks ago and now we are doing the V-Day monologues again. There’s a movement happening in Cape Town. Female-driven stories are becoming more and more prevalent. If you look at Sink last year and Dis Ek Anna, there are some stories being told that are being driven for women. Which I think is exciting for Cape Town and lots of theatre like The Alexander Bar. A lot of the girls here are doing incredible work that is empowering for women.
Mikkie-dene Le Roux: I’m inspired by Loren Loubser, Kelly-eve Koopman, Sarah Summers, Gabriella Pinto, Carla Fonseca and pretty much every South African woman I know who wakes up every day and goes out there not for themselves and the platform is, yes they are artists, but they are more than that. They are humanitarians and that inspires me. They have NGO’s and all of that. They run NGO’s and they help empower young women.
Tamryn Speirs: I think my heroes are my cast here. These women have done incredible stuff and some of the women have, to a lesser or larger degree, had to endure aspects of what we talk about and to bring themselves so honestly and so openly to the work is an incredible thing. And then if you look at the work of Jennifer Steyn and the work of some great actors in Cape Town and South Africa right now…
Shannyn Fourie: Nicola Hanekom.
Tamryn Speirs: Nicola Hanekom. People are already just pushing to reveal themselves and to reveal their vulnerability and yet in their vulnerability they are becoming stronger. I think we can teach men that because I think in a patriarchal society strength was honoured and anything vulnerable was seen as fearful or dangerous and to see through vulnerability comes that. There are so many women who are pushing themselves to be so vulnerable and so open and yet so receiving. There is strength coming through that.
Mikkie-dene Le Roux: I think you can find inspiration anywhere if you look. If you look you will find it.
Sive Gubangxa: Like everyone mentioned, we are each other’s role models and superheroes and people that we aspire to be and support. I find that in this space that has been created, there is no judgement. Zero judgments and 100% support. No one makes you feel stupid ever, no matter what it is that you are going through. It feels like the one space where the piece makes you feel vulnerable but being with these women, you can feel vulnerable. It’s like a response to it and if some people knew what went on in that room and heard the stuff we say and lets us walk out into society the way we are, they would be terrified. Absolutely terrified but it’s just that space and that love and it’s so important. I think we are all so fortunate that we can all feel that way in this space. Hopefully by sharing this story, one day we can actually be those people outside of those walls and outside of the theatre.
I think you all can be really proud of what this is and what it has the potential to do.
The cast of V-Day will be performing on September 30th at The Cape Town Fringe Festival. Tickets for V-Day can be found here.
Special Thanks to Marlisa Doubell.