What inspired you to create Vaudeville of the Vulva?
Vaudeville of the Vulva grew from the desire to inform and educate people about the latest research into female pleasure and the amazing design of the vulva - in an entertaining way. I wanted to use laughter and songs to open conversations about female sexuality, to address taboos and to release the shame that many people feel around their genitalia and their sexuality.
The story is, to an extent, autobiographical, and as my own attitudes and understandings have changed, the show has evolved. It has also happened vice versa. Almost every song that arrived initially felt really challenging to sing, but over time I became more comfortable with the material and more comfortable with these different aspects of myself.
What have been some of the highlights in the development of the show?
I find the creative process quite miraculous, especially when humour is involved. Sometimes I only get a glimpse of how one character or scene connects to another, but over time the full picture emerges. It’s as if it’s already been there but was waiting to be revealed. With jokes in particular, I often have a sense that there is something funny waiting to be found in a particular section of the script. But humour won’t be forced, and I have to be patient until the moment that it pops in, out of the blue - sometimes during an actual performance!
The show is brought to you by Laughing Beaver Productions, a collaboration between me and my musical director, Anando Bharti. He also helped write the script, along with standup comic Robert Grayson, and produced the soundtrack music with keyboard maestro Andrew Cox. My director, Penelope Chater, suggested to me many years ago that I had a one-woman show in me. She has helped at various times with pulling it all together and tightening it up!
What attracted you to stage this production at The Bread & Roses Theatre?
We arranged our UK tour from Australia, so were unable to look at theatres in person. Our publicist, Chris Hislop, suggested a number of theatres that he thought would suit the show, and when we looked at their websites, The Bread & Roses Theatre stood out to us. It felt like it had a warm, friendly vibe, supportive and collaborative, and open to different expressions of creativity. We were also very curious about where Rosie might be!
Were there any stumbling blocks during the creation of Vaudeville of the Vulva?
The original show was conceived using vulva puppets created by a Californian woman. She had invited me to sell these on my website, yoni.com. I found myself living with the largest collection of velvet vulvae in the Southern Hemisphere, and over time, they started to talk to me, characters started developing and the show took shape. Unfortunately, just four weeks before opening night in Australia, i received a letter from the creator of the puppets demanding product placement fees and performance royalties. She also wanted to vet the script. I had assumed that she would be delighted that I was creating more opportunities to promote her puppets and create potential sales, but she wasn't. She threatened to sue me. I wasn’t impressed by her litigious approach, so I decided to not use her puppets. This last-minute challenge turned out to be a golden opportunity, as i was forced to create new ways of presenting the characters that didn’t infringe her copyright. it was also great because her puppets were all the same design and shape, just different colours, and I wanted to emphasise the amazing variety of vulvae - we are all different. This led to me to create the Vulvalicious Cushion, an anatomically accurate representation of the vulva that is now used as a teaching aid by sex educators around the planet.
One of the characters in the show was a wearable vulva, Yeshoda yOni, an indian teacher of Tantra. In Australia, she has been one of the most-loved characters. However, when we trialled the show in the UK, some people were offended by me portraying an Indian character with the accent and mannerisms that I had absorbed when I studied Tantra in india. While I had created the character out of reverence and respect for the origins of Tantra, and my fondness for the quirks of Indian English, I was accused of cultural appropriation and racism.The majority of audiences have not objected to Yeshoda, but I do not wish to alienate anyone. My mission is education and liberation, so I have changed her to an elderly English disciple of an Indian guru. I also had feedback from early performances that my portrayal in general was rather hetero-normative. Some of the songs were written years before the languaging around gender identification became a concern. I’ve continued to update the lyrics and the script to be as inclusive as possible of the diversity of gender identity.
Call someone out by name: who should see this production? Be brave!
Eve Ensler. Her work with the Vagina Monologues and V-Day has been such an inspiration to me, and helped my vulva find her own voice(s). She is the pioneer of theatrical works that address feminine genitalia, and i would love her to see where I’ve taken that thread. We have invited her!
What's next for Laura-Doe?
I feel like this show has immense value to offer many people, and would dearly love to find the way to reach a much wider audience. We would love to find a promoter who shares our values and wishes to work with us. I also want to publish the script. I would like to see the material offered as part of the V-Day stable, or made available for fundraising productions in a similar vein.
Laura-Doe's Vaudeville of the Vulva runs 4th - 8th June at 7:15pm - BOOK NOW