What is virginity and what does our relationship with it look like in the 21st century?
This is the question Impurities explores at a breakneck speed during its Fringe run at King Edward School. As you may know after reading my preview for Impurities – I was pretty excited about this play. The show delivered on everything I thought it would after my conversation with playwright and director, Natalia Knowlton. The play is the story of three young women struggling with the notion of virginity – what it is, what it means to have it, and what it means once you’ve lost it. The story explores many aspects of society’s relationship with virginity – including the belief you should wait until marriage, the hope that your first sexual experience will be romantic, the discovery that sex can often get you things you want… and don’t want, and confusion around what is and isn’t sex.
The actors in Impurities were incredible. Even just the ability to change scenes, characters, the set, and costumes so quickly was a feat of choreography and a great deal of practice. In our interview a few weeks ago, Natalia told me that there were 35 characters in the play. However, it’s hard to really get the complexity and challenges this poses until you’ve seen it on stage. The 35 characters are portrayed by seven women, with four women being “shape-shifters” and moving between characters and scenes. Bravo to Noori Gill, Jemma Robinson, Lisa Jones, and Thais Polo whose metamorphosis into the different supporting characters who added depth and complexity to the script and the show.
The format of the script – many vignettes featuring the experiences of the three central characters – allows the play to cover a lot of ground in 90 minutes. I appreciated that the scenes shown didn’t just focus on one aspect of society’s relationship with virginity, instead it weaved through our many attitudes about virginity and sex. For example, Cecilia’s story (played by Kara Chamberlain) moved through many different relationships, complications, and lessons and, in doing so, provided a sense of closure, even though the story is told in many brief snippets. On the other hand, Kate (Terri Gingras) and Mia’s (Jessica Watsons) stories – which have more of a “moral” angle – focused on a specific set of experiences, but delved deeper and deeper into these experiences with each scene. The approach to these two stories gave the audience a chance to develop a closer, more intimate connection with the characters. While at times, the vignette format left me momentarily confused about which character’s story we were seeing, I think this was likely just a reaction to the scenes needing more”breathing room” to establish the time and place of the scene. Overall though, this play couldn’t have been the same without the vignette format so, if you do go and see it (which I highly recommend), buckle up and prepare for a whirlwind of scenes that will make you question your attitudes, beliefs, and even your own experiences.
Remaining show times for Impurities are: August 21 (6:45), August 22 (10:30), and August 23 (4:30). Tickets are $10.
– Jenna Marynowski