It’s a play that attracts controversy, but what it needs is attention. The Vagina Monologues comes to the city at last

Well, finally it looks like we might actually get to see it. Young and plucky theatre group Barking Dog Productions from Bangalore is bringing The Vagina Monologues to Chennai after the rest of the metros have possibly seen it several times. Contrary to what many might instantly imagine, the celebrated play has little to do with titillation and everything to do with creating awareness regarding violence against women. And if this isn’t something that every Indian in every city needs to see, especially after the Nirbhaya rape case has finally provoked our collective indignation, I don’t know what is.

Written and performed by playwright and feminist Eve Ensler in 1996, The Vagina Monologues has pushed boundaries since its first staging and impelled the world to look straight into the eyes of how society treats women. It is staged as a set of monologues in which several women narrate a story that talks of any one aspect of the female sexual experience — love, sex, rape, abuse, masturbation, childbirth, genital mutilation, etc.

Traditionally staged globally between February 1 and April 30 as part of the V Day Movement that protests gender violence, the play has faced its share of criticism with detractors protesting against its negative portrayal of sex and its overarching ‘male-as-enemy’ stance. Chennai, in an over-zealous burst of moral policing, had earlier banned the play when it came to India in a version featuring Jane Fonda and Marisa Tomei. Sadly, it’s our loss. Meanwhile, in cities such as Mumbai, the play has been running since 2004.

The version that comes here tomorrow sticks to the original script, with very few Indian modifications. This was worrying, admits director Lekha Naidu. “The very American context was my biggest concern, but I realised that these are universal stories. And it was important to share these stories first.” The theatre group’s audition was flooded with registrations, most aspirants driven by the V-Day cause. Finally, a 20-strong cast was picked, of women aged between 19 and 50, with 80 per cent of them first-time actors. Hopefully, Sunday’s performance will open the gate to more adaptations, and Indian stories told in Indian voices.