Female Parts: Shorts at Hoxton Hall
This intimate trio of monologues invites its audience into evocative corners of the shabbily grand Hoxton Hall to hear the tales of disparate women. Comprising pieces by activist-playwrights Franca Rame and Dario Fo and by spoken word artist and singer-songwriter Oneness Sankara, this contemplative evening blows open women’s role in society and the weight of preconception they face.
We start with Rame and Fo’s A Woman Alone, translated from Italian by Gillian Hanna. This frantic farce piles on the humour, but at its heart is a desperate girl chained to the demands of a host of unseen male characters. Gehane Strehler makes the role her own with energy and charisma. There are many thoughtful touches to the domestic set, from the smell of jasmine to the real steam from the iron. After the action heightens to fever pitch, it gains some gravity in its quiet final moments as our protagonist steels herself for a new response to her predicament.
The Mother, translated by Ed Emery, is the soul searching of a woman who has found out her son is a terrorist. In a curtained-off section of the echoing, high-ceilinged hall, with very little set, the lighting is the main supporting component. Switching between yellow and blue, it takes us between flashbacks and the present. Rebecca Saire gives a sensitive performance as the bereft parent and skilfully drops into other characters, such as the anarchic son.
Oneness Sankara’s The Immigrant is an ambitious piece of spoken word that’s rich with detail. The story nestles in the crack between what women are told they can achieve and the reality of society’s pressure to keep them bound to traditional roles. What would you do when presented with the choice to go to space to set an example for girls everywhere, it asks, or to stay home to nourish your relationship with your daughter? Clare Perkins delivers the rhyming couplets with conversational naturalism in a performance that emanates vivacity and motherly warmth.
The three pieces, all directed by Hoxton Hall artistic director Karena Johnson, are thoughtfully juxtaposed to trace the limitations of female roles in the world. We begin by witnessing the literal entrapment of the protagonist in A Woman Alone. Then, in the final The Immigrant, we seem to be looking at a situation in which a woman has everything she could want – a family and a career as an astronaut. Yet she is hated by her daughter back home, resented by her husband and slandered by the press.
But there’s a defiant streak to the anthology: each woman makes a decision to take control of her situation. There will always be adversity, it tells us, but there’ll always be strong-willed females stepping outside the status quo.
Photo: Sharon Wallace
Female Parts: Short is at Hoxton Hall from 13th until 31st March 2018. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.