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Madonna or Whore? at the Vault Festival – Review

Madonna Or Whore?When you think about it in the great scheme of things, sixty minutes is not a long time. Two episodes of a standard sitcom or the average lunch break. Let’s be honest, I can put off writing a review for longer than an hour and not notice the time pass. However, Holly Morgan’s production Madonna or Whore?, down at the Vault Festival, managed in just sixty short minutes to affect me so much, it may even have changed my life in some small way.

The show itself is based on the “Madonna–whore complex” first identified by Sigmund Freud. Under the rubric of psychic impotence, this psychological complex is said to develop in men who see women as either saintly Madonnas or debased whores. I’m guessing right now you’re thinking “that sounds like it’s not for me”. I can understand that, as my first reaction was also along those lines. But stick with it as Holly has not only written a fantastic one act play but she has managed to link the entire thing to the music of the one and only Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. The show itself is a mixture of stand-up, music, history and a real examination of the patriarchal society from biblical days through to the twenty-first century. Aided by the talented Tom Moores as, among others, Sigmund Freud (the second most famous Austrian) and with plenty of audience participation, Holly examines attitudes, both historical and contemporary, to women, their lives and their bodies. It is a truly fascinating subject which caused me to question certain aspects of my own thinking.

As always, I don’t want to give away any spoilers but for example, a certain historical crime has fascinated me for a long, long time. I have spent quite a while reading up on the facts of the crime and speculating over the criminal whilst never once paying any heed to the victims. True I knew their names but, I’m ashamed to say, nothing else about them. Holly discusses this crime in the show. Her approach is through the medium of song and laughter and she really gets her message across. So, while I was inwardly condemning myself for my lack of focus on the right things, I still managed to have a good laugh and, like I’m sure, the majority of the audience, I left the Vaults smiling and feeling good about myself.

Holly is an amazing actress who brings not only a real sincerity to the narrative she has written but also a wicked range of voices and an obviously genuine love for Madonna – the singing one. She and Tom work exceptionally well together and the affection between them really shines through. Between them, and with Director, Lisa Millar, they manage to put an amazing amount into such a short time. My attention was rapt throughout and my appreciation was such that, if I hadn’t been standing already singing along, I would have been on my feet as part of a standing ovation at the end.

As I left the theatre, I was able to reflect on what I had seen, heard and learned – especially about Lilith – and about the amazingly good time I had had in doing so. It was as if the BBC had dropped the baton to “inform, educate and entertain” and Holly had picked it up and made it one of her personal mantras.

Madonna or Whore? was my first show at the Vault Festival this year and it’s going to be very difficult for any other to top it for me.

5 Star Rating

Review by Terry Eastham

Holly has half-remembered something from a university lecture about Sigmund Freud’s Madonna/Whore complex. She also really likes Madonna and mildly controversial show titles.

Through the magic of pop music and comedy, Holly channels various controversial women from history (she whacks a crap wig on) and asks the big questions: why do we put women in boxes (metaphorical)? Why do we put women in boxes (literal)? Which character from Sex and the City would you be?

The Diva on a Budget returns to Vault with the long-suffering Tom Moores (the reanimated corpse of Sigmund Freud) to sort this whole misogyny mess out once and for all.

ARTISTIC TEAM
Holly Morgan, Tom Moores
Directed by BY Lisa Millar
The Vaults
31 Jan – 4 Feb 2018
Suitability 15+
Duration 1hr
https://vaultfestival.com/

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