Vanessa de Largie is an actress, author and journalist from Australia, currently based in London. Much of her work focuses on fierce female sexuality and issues that affect women, and her one-woman-show Every Orgasm I Have Is A Show Of Defiance To My Rapist is an autobiographical piece about rape, trauma and sexuality.
The show began life as a controversial column that Vanessa wrote for The Daily Telegraph in 2016. “The column explored how I healed from rape through sex, and the reaction to it was explosive,” she explains. “I had no intention of turning the column into a piece of theatre, that was the furthest thing from my mind. Then two months ago, I arrived in London and began attending acting classes at The Actors Centre. I did the introductory and advanced ‘solo theatre’ courses with Colin Watkeys, who has a unique way of working. A seedling was born in those workshops and for the last five weeks I’ve been consolidating.”
Vanessa’s aim with the show is to start a new conversation about rape. “There’s a popular view – particularly amongst feminists – that we are never allowed to joke about rape,” she says. “Why not? It’s as necessary to joke about rape as it is to joke about war, disease and death. Humour is what gives humanity ‘light relief’. It enables us to converse with one another about important topics – such as rape – more freely. Political correctness causes rigidness and puts constraints on the conversation. Every rape victim has their own way of dealing with the trauma. And no way is right or wrong. Sex was the right path for me in healing, it may not be the right path for another.
“I want the audience to be confronted. I want the audience to feel uncomfortable. It is only then, we can begin to tear down the walls. I want them to leave the theatre questioning everything they thought they knew about rape, trauma, healing and sexuality.”
Asked why it’s such a taboo to make jokes about rape compared to other serious subjects, Vanessa responds that she believes it comes from a good place: “People don’t want to cause any additional pain or hurt to rape victims, which is understandable. Sadly the majority of commentators who talk about rape haven’t experienced it firsthand. I’m not quite sure why ‘rape’ is supposedly meant to be wrapped in cotton wool as opposed to other subjects. I definitely think it’s driven by the feminist movement and the current vitriol in society and on social media against men.”
So what is an appropriate way to respond if someone we know is affected by rape? “I would suggest that you ask questions,” says Vanessa. “Rape victims often don’t get asked questions by friends and family because people assume it’s too invasive or may cause hurtfulness. You would be amazed at how many victims of rape would like to be asked about their experience.”
The show premiered in April at the Tristan Bates Theatre, and can next be seen for three nights in July as part of the Lambco Fringe Festival at the Lost Theatre. “Audience members at the show’s premiere told me that they found it to be raw, confronting and powerful,” Vanessa says. “I haven’t had any negative feedback as yet but I’m sure it will come. When people reacted viciously to the original article, I fought back with another article. I like to fight art with more art. So depending on what they say — it might be good fodder for another show!?!”
Every Orgasm I Have Is A Show Of Defiance To My Rapist is at the Lost Theatre on 15th, 16th and 18th July.