There is a subtle difference, I think, between efforts to bring about gender equality by political action, and efforts to shift or reinforce gender equality as a paradigm and a goal. The former was needed in the last few centuries, but the latter will be needed much longer.
Fat Rascal Theatre’s Vulvarine, currently wowing audiences at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, is one of the most enjoyable examples of musical theatre to stand up to the challenge of building the gender equality paradigm.
The story centres on Bryony Buckle, a nerdy office worker with a crush on another nerdy office worker and a cough. After accepting a new medication from a misogynistic doctor, she is struck by lightning and becomes a superhero. You can guess what this hero’s name becomes…
The greatest strength of this production is how effortlessly it engages the audience, with slapstick humour and a light-hearted, whimsical air it screams along at a cracking pace, with barely enough time for the audience to draw a breath between guffaws. And the deeply important messages it delivers come with a depth or pathos rare for any musical, let alone such a comic one.
Performances are exceptional. There are five performers, and I lost count of characters at some point, but although Allie Munroe is spectacularly perfect in her depiction of Bryony Buckle, each one is a consummate professional worthy of the highest praise Edinburgh can offer.
My one objection is that I thought I was the only playwright to ever use High Wycombe in a play!
I don’t know if many misogynists would be persuaded by this work, but it reinforces messages of gender equality in a light hearted and positive way, building the culture of gender equality as paradigm, rather than movement.
But most importantly, this is musical theatre at its finest: engaging, witty and pointed.