The female experience is under the spotlight this week at the Basement Theatre, as Bits and Pieces Ensemble present their latest work, Flaps.
The play brings together seven rising and experienced female actors to discuss topics often seen as taboo, from menstruation and pubic hair to sexuality, body image, relationships and childbirth.
Rather than making people feel uncomfortable, the idea is to start a conversation about women’s experiences on and off the stage.
Brie Hill and Emily Campbell curated the all-female cast and crew show – which takes place at a sleepover. They also perform and direct in the vignettes that include songs, dancing, a vagina rap and even a vagina puppet.
They spoke animatedly to Upbeat producer Zoë George about why it’s important to put something like this on stage.
These women say vagina loudly, proudly and in unison. They aren’t afraid to talk about their labia minora, labia majora and associated experiences in detail. Some people react to their openness in various ways – some are queasy, others feel ill and some are even titillated.
But that is what their show Flaps is all about - lady parts; not just on bodies, but in society and on stage.
“We are not used to saying that word - vagina - aloud,” Brie says.
Topics associated with the vagina are often seen as taboo, while the male counterpart is often discussed more and is seen to be more socially acceptable. “For me, growing up, the vagina wasn’t something that was talked about or celebrated and was often seen as taboo,” Brie says.
Even in health classes in high school the vagina, and vagina related discussions, including female masturbation, were glossed over. “Even from a young age there was such a disparity between the two genitalia,” Brie says. “That’s carried through until now. It’s becoming more socially acceptable to talk about the vagina.”
Discussions about the vagina, according to the curators, have also been suppressed because of it’s physicality. “You can see the penis,” Emily says. “But a lot of women go their entire lives not looking at their vagina, acknowledging it and accepting it.”
But, according to Brie and Emily, if you look hard enough vagina imagery is everywhere, from orchids, to coffee beans and even religious images. “There are symbols of it throughout history,” Emily says. “As soon as you start looking you keep seeing more!”
This show comes from a place of empowerment. These women are becoming more visual in society and on stage through creating works like Flaps which encourage both established and emerging creatives to collaborate.
Gender equality in the arts is a hot topic. But instead of asking for an opportunity, Brie, Emily and the team at Bits and Pieces Ensemble decided to create their own. “It was birthed out of the need to provide a place and space for women,” Brie says. “You can’t wait around for an opportunity, you have to go and create one yourself.”
But Flaps is bigger than vaginas and related experiences. “We want to start a conversation and get people talking about things they couldn’t talk about previously,” Emily says. “It’s about celebrating females and vaginas and knowing those two things aren’t synonymous.”