Lady and the Cramp

Sun 19th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Tara Snelling

at 09:12 on 20th Aug 2018

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If I’m honest, this production had me with the name ‘Vulvarines’. In a bar room which seems more suited to boozy stand up gigs, the fashionable group are lined up on stage to greet their largely female audience. All four beam with welcoming bright and lipstick smiles, like air hostesses, dressed completely in pink.

But their job description, unlike flight attendants, is not to make their audience comfortable. This doesn’t mean 'Lady and the Cramp' isn’t relaxed – it’s mostly a very funny, charismatic and unapologetic comedy show featuring a series of quirky and quippy songs about the highs, but mainly lows, of modern womanhood.

Ukuleles, guitars, and xylophones – the whole thing feels very Zooey Deschanel at first. That is, until you spot pianist Joaelle Woolley, the ‘Vagina’, peeking from the clit area of a vulva costume. Their songs are up-to-date explorations of millennial female experience, from the shame of STDs to anxiety about vulvas. There are witty one-liners sung so sweetly you’d think it was a rearrangement of Dorris Day, until you tune into the lyrics: “Dumbo the elephant ain’t got nothing on my flaps”.

The undercurrent of anger beneath is unmissable however, and develops more and more as the show goes on. The light and cheery give way to the raw rage which 21st century women normally cover, conceal, or just can’t allow themselves to feel constantly. Delightful and winning one moment, somber and frustrated the next, the mood swings don’t feel like shock value but a natural part of hearing your friends relate stories about their problematic nights out – maybe told with laughter, but just not really that funny.

Other highlights besides the songs include a spoken word poem delivered and written by Jamie Bells, which questions the moral of Red Riding Hood in a world of rape culture. Perhaps the most affecting moment for me was the final, very touching tribute to Eurydice Dixon – a female comedian raped and murdered after walking home from her comedy show – revolving around the very last text she ever sent.

Perhaps more could be done to expand the experiences discussed – the distress described is mostly felt by straight, cis and white women – but this might be because the performers wish to speak authentically about their own, personal experiences.

This is the kind of show which made me feel both great camaraderie, and horribly angry, about being female. A hidden gem at the Fringe, and completely for free, this performance is a funny but thought-provoking watch for all genders.

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Jessica Loram

at 09:54 on 20th Aug 2018

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Making my way downstairs to the underground Bourbon Bar, I had no idea which direction ‘Lady and the Cramp’ might go, but I felt hopeful. It turned out that The Vulvarines, a four part all-female musical cabaret troupe, went everywhere. No stone was left unturned in their exploration of what it means to be female today. Beginning jauntily, the troupe meditate on the inconveniences of STIs and, in the next song, bring on Doctor Pink Freud, who asks us ‘Do you love your labia?’ whilst wielding a pair of menacing, rose-coloured scissors. Within a mere hour, The Vulvarines use comedy to take us on a liberating journey, moving the audience from stitches of laughter - through their retelling of the awkward realities of sex - to sobering tears, as they confront us with the graver truths lived by women today.

Donned in varying shades of pink and sporting genitalia-inspired fascinators, The Vulvarines challenge the familiar but damaging social modes of thinking at play in our society. Lamenting the tampon tax, The Vulvarines ask Theresa May if she wants them to "bleed on the children"? In addition to their tongue-in-cheek humour, sonorous vocals with accompaniment from guitar and keyboard are the troupe’s weapons, as is the incorporation of personal stories. An outstanding moment for me was Jamie Bells’ performance of her own poem in which she calls for more frankness when it comes to educating girls and young women on the dangers facing females when navigating the realm of dating. She gives a voice to a mother’s regrets of what she "should have said" because "all I said was stick to the path".

By first opening the show with lighter subjects, The Vulvarines ease us steadily into a darker exploration of the female experience. It feels empowering to see a space on the stage given to the uncomfortable, but not unfamiliar, subjects of date rape drugs and sexual assault. I am not easily moved, but I felt my hairs stand on end during the troupe’s evocative and haunting tribute to the memory of Eurydice Dixon. The audience was overwhelmingly female, but I hope this was an exception. Through music and humour, the Vulvarines demonstrate why politically and socially ‘Lady and the Cramp’ is a must-see for all genders.

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