Coming of age stories are not new, but the coming of age of a young woman told through the lens of her sexual empowerment, is a powerful statement on what it means to grow up, as a female, today. We follow two characters—one representing the Brain and one the Clitoris—of a girl on a journey from learning what sex and masturbation are, to her first sexual encounter and adult relationships.
During the first half, the play felt a lot like two separate artistic visions smashed together. The educational and scientific style didn't mesh with the forest-esque scenery and dance. The projections behind, suggesting 'only boys masturbate', were a little too on the nose and seemed to straw man ideas about sexuality in a classroom-like style that could have been played out with more nuance. Early sexual experiences at parties and university also seemed cliché, and were based more on the plot of teen films than detailed, real experiences. However, the delightful comedy, particularly by Sara Alexander’s wonderful portrayal of the constantly curious and horny Clitoris, pulls the audience through some of these awkward moments.
The real strength of this play was in the second half where the play zoomed in on one particular question: whether feeling sexy leads to more sexual pleasure for women? The exploration of this question, through the tragic inner monologue of the main characters—as she attempts to dress up to please her partner, and the sexual charged dancing where she attempted to force her Clitoris to comply with her prioritisation of sexiness over sexual pleasure—created more clarity on this issue. Bella Heesom's writing glows during this second half of the play. This ending starts to get at the deeper root of women’s sexual problems. It creates a statement on women’s desires. It was brave and powerful and took a risk. This ending says something interesting. I would have liked to have seen the play start rather than end on this point.
Whilst I thoroughly enjoyed the final message of the play, I felt like there was a lot that could have been cut out or explored more complexly during the first half. Ultimately, this play tackles the complex topic of female sexuality and empowerment with nuance and compassion. It is well worth going to see for anyone who is interested in the state of feminism and women’s experience in heterosexual relationships today.
Rejoicing At Her Wondrous Vulva The Young Woman Applauded Herself is on at the Ovalhouse until the 25th of May and tickets are available here.
Edited by Dimitrina Dyakova, Deputy Digital Editor