Review: HOLLY SPILLAR: HOLE, Soho Theatre

The production ran from 2 to 3 April

By: Apr. 04, 2024
Review: HOLLY SPILLAR: HOLE, Soho Theatre
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Review: HOLLY SPILLAR: HOLE, Soho Theatre

“My pleasure. My pain. My body. My rights.”

Holly Spillar: HOLE is, as described by Spillar herself, “a one-woman vagina show” in which she uses only her voice and a loop pedal to tell the story of her journey with vaginismus, an involuntary tensing of the vagina that prevents penetrative sex. The opening, a song in which she sings like Lorde until pulling out a kazoo, sets the tone for the rest of the show - a fascinating mix of vocal talent, storytelling ability and silliness. 

Spillar begins by explaining vaginismus or, as she likes to call it, “Evil Vagina Christmas,” to those unfamiliar with the diagnosis. She has many comparisons about her “hole” at the ready, including the children’s television show Jungle Run, getting a tent back into its original case and the betrayal of Zara’s stitched-up pockets. Spillar also has a hilarious running joke of simply referring to men as “poles,” referring to penetrative sex as “holes and poles” throughout the show. 

Her story really begins in university as she has a crisis over missing out on “awful sex” as a liberal arts student, as she knows that her friends are all having it and she can’t seem to. This leads to her meeting a man nicknamed “Woolf” in a bar and going back to his terribly decorated student room to have sex with him. This leads to two of my favourite songs from the show, one about “white guys from uni” and the other being a brilliant song including the pun “Stretch Arm-Gone” (I won’t spoil the context - you really have to see it to believe it!). 

Spillar uses the looping pedal like an extension of her own body. Combine that with her fascinating vocal range and you’re in for a unique experience. Some songs include an ASMR with an imaginary therapist with the voice of Björk, “Actively requesting a female doctor,” a list of advice real doctors have given her and even an audience singalong about receiving dildos from the NHS. Spillar creates songs with some gorgeous harmonies and witty lyrics that all have a place within the show. Spillar also uses the looping pedal for voice effects, including the embodiment of her internalised misogyny and other “poles” in the story. 

Along with some great jokes and funny stories, there are also more serious moments in the show, including a segment on how numbing gel made Spillar questions whether it was for her or the person she was having sex with as well as the difficulties that many face in getting a vaginismus diagnosis and being provided with things like dilators in order to work on their treatment. Most of these realisations come from a Facebook group she’s in, a support group for people with vaginismus, including one heartbreaking post from someone who asks what kinds of vegetables can be used for penetration as the country she is from doesn’t provide dilators like the NHS.

While Spillar is vocally talented, it is difficult at times to understand the lyrics to her songs with the overpowering audio tracks. There are also a few moments in which the looping audio becomes too much, a loud cacophony of sound that is sometimes painful to hear (this may have been intentional, but is really is not an enjoyable experience and takes away from the show). 

Ultimately, Holly Spillar: HOLE is a wonderful work that shows the audience the “w-hole” picture of Spillar’s life with vaginismus, one that does not have a set ending like a 60-minute theatre show. I look forward to seeing more from Spillar and her loop pedal in the future!

Holly Spillar: HOLE ran from 2 to 3 April at Soho Theatre.


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