The Talking Vagina: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

Leesa Nicholls

Asian Australian writer Michele Lee directed/wrote and produced The Talking Vagina for the 2008 Fringe Festival and it’s currently running in the back room of Miss Libertine in Franklin Street as part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
The Talking Vagina: Melbourne International Comedy Festival
The Talking Vagina: Melbourne International Comedy Festival If you didn’t have the chance to see The Talking Vagina last year then maybe it’s time to move your muffin, toolbox, or velvety love folds down to Miss Libertine. This was one of those productions you appreciated more as you drove away. One of those shows you retrospectively think ‘actually that was quite clever’. Asian Australian writer Michele Lee directed/wrote and produced the show for the 2008 Fringe Festival and it’s currently running in the back room of Miss Libertine (the old Macs Hotel for those of you who used to work at old TAA next door) in Franklin Street. I mention Michele’s Asian Australian background as she insisted that one of the four characters in this intimate, fun play, Mr Wong (James Deeth), be played by a white Aussie guy with a barely discernable Aussie/Chinese accent – ‘Mr Wong...(faces audience) from China’. Jessica (Alia Vryens) has a talking ‘fou fou’ called Frank (Simon Doyle). Inappropriately, Frank tends to pipe up in those intimate moments and let Jessica’s new boyfriend Edward (Alastair Brown) know exactly, and I mean EXACTLY what’s on her mind. It took a few minutes to warm to the characters but you did get drawn in and you did stay engaged. For such a topic as sexuality, and for guys to be playing the roles of ‘mutts’ and quipping about menstruation it was carried off with relative ease. It’s not what I would call slick, but that’s what made this all the more endearing. The show was punctuated between amusingly messy costume changes with music and a voiceover of every name you can possibly imagine for ‘down there’. Some of them you felt comfortable with and others had you uncrossing and re-crossing your legs – the point exactly. It subverted everything that could be subverted – Chinese man played by white Aussie male; a talking penis played by a woman; a hard core lesbian (with a t-shirt ‘I killed Jenny’) by a guy – men nodding their heads and understanding menstruation! The four actors rolled out ten characters in all and they executed it convincingly. Humorous and gently thought provoking it had you grinning most of the way through. Generally you come away from these productions with one particular actor having stood out. But in this instance all were strong, all held their corner of the play and all had memorable moments. Director Daniel Rice writes about the play ‘Could the subtext be unearthed, to unveil the metaphor that I always believed was there – that of a young woman, surrounded by men of ambiguous intentions, attempting to come to terms with her sexuality? A sexuality that is neither quiet nor ‘lady-like’, but is still, regardless of the fact that it seems to have a mind of its own, very much a part of her?’ This production lives with you a lot longer than those that prompt the immediate laughs. I’m no writer’s critic but I would say that Michele Lee might be one to watch over the coming years. The Talking Vagina part of the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, runs until 25 April and is worth a look. Venue: Miss Libertine, 34 Franklin Street, Melbourne Running: 7-25 April 2009
What the stars mean?
  • Five stars: Exceptional, unforgettable, a must see
  • Four and a half stars: Excellent, definitely worth seeing
  • Four stars: Accomplished and engrossing but not the best of its kind
  • Three and a half stars: Good, clever, well made, but not brilliant
  • Three stars: Solid, enjoyable, but unremarkable or flawed
  • Two and half stars: Neither good nor bad, just adequate
  • Two stars: Not without its moments, but ultimately unsuccessful
  • One star: Awful, to be avoided
  • Zero stars: Genuinely dreadful, bad on every level

About the author

Leesa Nicholls is a sculptor and Arts Hub reviewer.