NNT’s Vaginal Discharge, written and directed by Florence Bell investigates the lives of four ordinary people seeking to understand their own as well as societies set of values and opinions.
This was the first time I’d ever been to the NNT on campus, so I didn’t really know what to expect until I was ushered through to the next room. The space was close-knit and intimate which added another layer to the production which delves into the mindset of four individuals, the play unravelling what appears to be the mundane, family dynamic through the inner workings of the characters minds, as they each literally ‘take the mic’.
Bell had managed to take a topic, two words really- ‘Vaginal Discharge’ and create an entire world around them and the questions they raise, dependent on how we, as well as the actors onstage, react.
“The production had me questioning my own perspective”
I felt that the aim was to desensitize us to the words, through the use of the familiar setting, arguments and conversations that we’ve all endured. The production had me questioning my own perspective alongside the two younger characters who were subjected to the mindsets imposed by their parents. Before long it became apparent that nobody really had an answer for why we think some things are unacceptable, that’s just what’s been drilled into us all our lives.
The humour of the play made its subject all the more accessible. The plays feminist’s tones were teased out by bridging a serious topic but in a way that considered all different angles, ages and genders. Male prejudices against women were explored, but equally topics less frequented, such as misandry were also devoured.
“It’s a title that carries a lot of stigma and misassumptions”
Previously, the writer, Florence Bell explained that the play explores how exhausting it can be to be termed a ‘feminist’ in the 21st century. I agree, as it’s a title that carries a lot of stigma and misassumptions. Rosiella Sutherland’s character Martha, aptly explains feminism in terms that, ‘It’s not that I want to take lines away from men specifically… I just want more of my own’.
Although the play was relatively short, perhaps running just under an hour it still had a lot of impact. As we watch the family dynamic shift and change, I felt as though we were watching the progression and development of not only the younger, teen characters but also the older parents, adjusting their previously ingrained set of social norms to meet those of the emerging generation.
“The actors did a fantastic job of pulling off a family dynamic”
Speckled with humour, we were treated to a kaleidoscope of enquiries, perspectives and mindsets throughout the trajectory of the play. The actors did a fantastic job of pulling off a family dynamic, so much so that at points I forgot that I was watching a play rather than interjecting on somebody’s family dinner.
In my opinion, this is a play that everybody needs to go and see. It’s educational but not condescending, breaching topics that are still seen as taboo today in a way that is both accessible and inclusive.
All in all, Florence Bell, Francis Simmons and the rest of the cast pulled off a performance that will stay in your head long after the curtains come down. Hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more from Florence in the future!
All images courtesy of Nottingham New Theatre Official Facebook Page.