The actress chatted to Emma Clarendon about starring in Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva The Woman Applauded Herself at the Ovalhouse Theatre.
Hi Sara – thanks so much for talking to me. Could you explain a bit more about what Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva the Woman Applauded Herself is about?
It’s a joyful, slightly bonkers, deeply moving and brutally honest exploration of female sexuality.
What were your initial impressions of Bella Heesom’s play when you first read it?
I had the pleasure of working with Bella when her idea was embryonic. We’d perform a few minutes of her skits and rough scenes at a time, all over London at various experimental try-out or scratch nights where artists perform their new work in front of audiences as they are developing it. It was terrifying and liberating. She hooked me by saying I would be playing a clitoris – which fills me with no end of pleasure. Almost no pun intended.
Why do you think it is so important to tell stories like this on stage?
You don’t often see two women being honest, bare, present and playful together, opening up a complicated and often taboo subject with courage and joy. We need more of that.
Why do you think that the subject of female sexuality is still seen as a taboo subject to talk about?
Essentially I think it’s rooted in a thousand+ year old suppression of the sacred feminine. In a patriarchal society, the wilder nature within women is not honoured, nurtured or encouraged. The feminine energies within men are not fed either. Both lose out. Sensuality, non-linear sexuality, urges and sensations are still threatening because they do not align with our manufactured ideas of what female sexuality is or should be. There’s a lot of ‘shoulds’ still sticking to all of us. It’s taboo because it’s impulsive, unrelated to logic or the ego, all qualities which are Rationale’s nemesis.
What was it that made you want to be involved with this production?
I had a fantastic time with Bella at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in 2016 when she invited me to perform in her incredibly moving play My World Has Exploded a Little Bit which we then went on to tour and perform in London. When she told me she was hatching another play, this time about female sexuality, and please would I think about playing her clitoris I jumped at the idea. The deeper we’ve waded into her ideas the more proud I feel to be bringing the work we’ve discovered and her fantastic writing to London audiences. Female sexuality fascinates me. It has the power to express so much about an inner world. I love to write about it in my novels, explore it. It is the seat of the most raw, vulnerable, powerful aspect of my female characters. Being part of a theatrical production which is so bold and joyous, with a woman’s experience up centre and in focus is absolutely fantastic – and rare.
What can audiences expect from Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva the Woman Applauded Herself? Joy. Laughter. Tears perhaps. Two fearless women embracing vulnerability, ferocity, passion and fear with open hearts and incisive minds. Perhaps folks might leave questioning their perceptions of their own sexuality, sexual selves, messages they have received, warmed with celebration of all that they are.
By Emma Clarendon
Sara Alexander performs Rejoicing at Her Wondrous Vulva the Woman Applauded Herself at the Ovalhouse Theatre 9th-25th May and her next novel The Last Concerto, is published by HQ in August. Find out more about Sara and her work at saraalexander.net.