Madonna or Whore opens with the iconic idol of our generation, Sigmund Freud. Resuscitated from the dead, the famous Austrian tells us with meta-references and hyperawareness about the Madonna-whore complex, explaining how women are offered only two mutually exclusive identities in the minds of many men.

The show also opens with the reminder that last September, we all shockingly discovered that within the entertainment industry some women had been (sit down, ladies and gentlemen, it will take a moment to process this brand new information) abused. Who knew?! Not Woody Allen, that’s for sure.

Madonna or Whore is a potpourri of stand-up comedy, pop music, history lessons and psychotherapy, peppered – or in this case, well-seasoned – with an exploration of the misogynist and patriarchal aspects of society, from Lilith’s empowering sexuality in biblical history to Lourdes Leon’s armpit hair on New Year’s Eve 2018.

Holly Morgan channels notorious and unfairly unknown women from history through the much appreciated appearance of Madonna’s songs. Plus Madonna herself. And the Virgin Mary. Through Morgan’s authentic comedy, her rather masterful range of voices and a very enthusiastic, though sometimes vaguely neurotic Tom Moores (who should be commended for his Vogue moves), the sixty minutes of the show fly by. The chemistry between Morgan and Moores works perfectly – their playful swings at each other serve quite skillfully as a narrative and structuring method all throughout the show, and Lisa Millar delivers a clever direction that unifies the diverse aspects of the production.

Morgan manages to write about society’s treatment of women, from their attitudes to their pubic hair, with refreshing sincerity and an anger that has been turned into genuine creativity – messy and imperfect but heartfelt, light-hearted and empowering. Madonna or Whore demands answers about identity, patriarchy and Madonna. It’s one of these rare breaths of fresh air that leaves you with a desire to start a revolution and assert your uniqueness as a woman.

 

 

★★★★☆

Madonna Or Whore runs until 4 February 2018 at the VAULT Festival. For further information, please visit the venue website.

Click here for an interview with writer and performer Holly Morgan.