Female Parts

Written by Dario Fo and Franca Rame

Thurs 18th April - Sat 20th April & Tues 23rd April - Sat 27th April 2002

Directed by Sam Emery & Damon Wakelin

In turns comic and deeply moving, Female Parts is a series of four monologues dealing with female oppression. Fo and Rame's theatrical collaboration gives us a popular approach to feminism, an engaging blend of mime, story-telling, burlesque and stand-up comedy.

"Not a play, or a drama, or even a farce. They are bits and pieces of reality that fly through the air and land on us, eliciting wry smiles and uncomfortable admissions."

S. Borelli, L'Unita

These plays contain explicit references to adult situations and contain language and imagery that may cause offence.

AuthorsDario Fo and Franca Rame

Dario Fo (b 1926)

Italian playwright Dario Fo is one of the world's most frequently performed living playwrights. His dramatic work employs comedic methods of the ancient Italian commedia dell'arte, a theatrical style popular with the proletarian classes and his writing has often been controversial and subject to censorship or reprisals by the authorities.

Dario Fo was born in San Giano, a small town on Lago Maggiore in the province of Varese. His mother Pina Rota, was a woman of great imagination and talent and his maternal grandfather was also a strong influence; the young Dario spent childhood holidays at his farm in Lomellina. Dario spent his childhood moving from one town to another, as his father's postings were changed at the whim of the railway authorities. In 1940 he moved to Milan (commuting from Luino) to study at the Brera Art Academy. After the war, he studied architecture at the Polytechnic but in 1945 he turned his attention to stage design and theatre decor and begun to improvise monologues.

During his architecture studies and while working as decorator and assistant architect, Dario entertained his friends with tales as tall as those he heard in the lakeside taverns of his childhood. In 1951 he met and married Franca Rame, with whom he has subsequently collaborated many times. In 1953 he wrote and directed a satirical play 'Il dito nell'occhio'. After initial success both government and church authorities censored his work. He later gave up architecture in disgust at the level of corruption he found. He continued to write and produce plays within which he spoke out against state corruption and political scandal and openly criticised the church.

In 1997 he received the Nobel Prize for Literature and he currently owns and operates a theatre company in Italy - one of three that he founded with his wife.

Franca Rame

France Rame is Fo's wife and leading actress and has assisted in and contributed to the writing of many of the plays they have produced in their 45 years of theatre together. She was born in Parabiago, Lombardy, into a family with a long theatre tradition. She made her theatrical debut in 1951. Shortly thereafter, she met Dario Fo, whom she married in 1954. Their son, Jacopo (now a writer in his own right) was born in 1955. In 1958, she co-founded the Dario Fo-Franca Rame Theatre Company in Milan, with Fo as the director and writer, and Rame the leading actress and administrator.

Rame continued working with Fo through many plays and several theatre companies, popular success and government censorship. In the 1970s, Rame began writing plays (often stage monologues) of her own, such as 'Grasso è bello!' and 'Tutta casa, letto e chiesa' - a markedly feminist work. Although the first work where her name appears as co-author with Fo, was in 1977, she was almost certainly influential and collaborative before then on many of the Nobel laureate's plays. In 1973, she was infamously abducted, tortured and raped by a fascist group commissioned by high ranking officials in the Italian military police. After her release, she returned to the stage after two months with new anti-fascist monologues. She has been heavily involved in politics for many years. In particular she was a member of the Italian Senate representing the centre-left anti-political corruption. From 2010 she became, also with her husband, an independent member of the Communist Refoundation Party.

PlaysFemale Parts

Originally entitled 'Tutta casa, letto e chiesa', these four monologues were written on 1977 and first performed that year in Palazzina Liberty, Italy. They received their UK debut in London in 1982 in the original Italian with Franca Rame performing. The English translation - 'Female Parts', was performed for the first time, (also in 1982) by Yvonne Bryceland at the National Theatre.

A Woman Alone

A prisoner in her own home, a prisoner in her own life, a housewife finds liberation through a journey of fear, farce and fumblings.


A Medea for our times. This is a Medea abandoned and in despair, but who comes to realise that she is a victim of centuries of male oppression rather than a pawn in the hands of the Fate. Accordingly, her children must die in order to break the chains of oppression.

The Same Old Story

A woman bearing an unwanted child and an uncaring lover tells a scatological children's story of a little girl with a foul-mouthed dolly. Sexual exploitation and exploding engineers follow with girls everywhere telling "the same old story".

Rise and Shine

You know the feeling. You're late. The baby needs feeding. You can't find your keys. The baby needs changing. Last nights row is buzzing round your head. The baby needs changing again. And then, the final straw...

The Bench Production

Female Parts poster image

This play was staged at Havant Arts Centre, East Street Havant - Bench Theatre's home since 1977. While this was the first time Bench Theatre had staged all four monologues together, the company had previously produced Medea in 1993 as part of a series of solo performances called 'Let Me Finish!


A Woman AloneAngela Rubik
MedeaSue Dawes
The Same Old StoryRobin Hall
Rise and ShineFrancine Huin-Wah


Rise and Shine
Sam Emery
A Woman Alone
Same Old Story
Damon Wakelin
Stage Manager Jaspar Utley
Assistant Stage Manager Becky Brigham
Lighting Design Damon Wakelin
Lighting Operation Stuart Monk
Sound Design Darryl Wakelin
Sound Operation Simon Walton
Props Megan Utley
Leaflet Design Pete Woodward
Set Design Sam Emery
Damon Wakelin
Publicity Neil Pugmire
Paul Millington
Photographs Bill Whiting
Programme Editor Derek Callam
Front of House Sharman Callam

Director's Notes

My pieces, ('Same Old Story' and 'A Woman Alone') are comedies! They have their serious intents and moments of great pathos and occasional power, but we must never lose sight of the fact that they are entertainments. A monologue is a huge challenge. Everything is reliant on one person in performance. All of the characters, places, creatures and voices within the pieces are born of the same source. No one else can help if it goes wrong; if your cue doesn't arrive, it is because you haven't given it to yourself. There is nowhere to hide!

How do you direct a woman in plays so single-mindedly female? I can help guide on technical and ephemeral things such as rhythm, pace, physicality and so on. As for the intention, the meaning of the words, the best I can do is ask questions of the actress' - they, by definition, must have a greater insight, empathy and connection with the text than I... beyond that it is my job to encourage them and to help them find confidence in themselves and the material... above all I must keep it interesting; for the performers and for the audience.

Damon Wakelin

This was all my idea. An idea that, within a couple of days of suggesting it, I was half-wishing had never made it out of my mouth. We only had 6 weeks, three-quarters of a cast and a sketch of a set design to turn into a show. I was even more apprehensive after reading the scripts for the first time. Not for their quality - they are, as many people had told me, tried and tested, award-winning pieces of writing. I passionately believe in the message each of them carries and love the gutsy, 'sock-it-to-em' style they use to get that message across.

It was this "pulls no punches" approach that worried me - some of the language, the images, the content, the 'feminism'- how would an audience react? I imagined a worse case scenario; surely they'd all leave at the first hint of the 'f'-word (both four letter and f-eminism)! I was wrong to worry. I should have had more faith in the material and our audience. As we began rehearsals the true nature and strength of the pieces started to show. They are very, very funny, acutely (sometimes painfully) observed and portray a picture of womanhood that is as relevant today as the day of their conception over 30 years ago.

If I had space I would wax lyrical about the hard work and commitment of Sue and Francine. Their pieces are very different but equally challenging and they've both developed performances that do themselves and the monologues proud. Enormous thanks also go to the backstage crew, the rest of the Bench for the many jobs they've done to get this show up and running, and especially to Damon, my co-director, whose energy, belief and dogged calm has seen us through. Doing 'Female Parts' has been fun and eye opening in so many ways I couldn't write them all down without filling another programme. Suffice to say I'm glad I said it out loud after all.

Sam Emery


The NewsJames George

Quality is hit and miss

Bench Theatre tackles this feminist piece with gusto. The result is an entertaining - if somewhat patchy - evening's theatre-going, the four plays within the play being of varying quality.

Woman Alone is a Pythonesque view of a woman trapped in a humdrum life. Angela Rubick's delivery is machine gun although, on occasion, she seems uncertain of the words. With this type of piece, care must be taken to balance the reality of the speech with the unreality of the situation. It is here that the director and actress do not quite pull it off. Medea is the only one of the four plays with a much blacker edge. Sue Dawes manages the dual characterisation well, with words firmly in place.

Same Old Story is undoubtedly the highlight of the evening. Robin Hall's performance is truly hilarious and some of the best acting occurs in her tenure of the stage. Watch out, particularly, for the small, frightened moment in the clinic. Ridiculous in her indignity, terrified of the future. Nice. In Rise and Shine, Francine Huin-Wah shows her strength as an actress and tackles the manic comedy with skill. Until April 27th.

The News, 19th April 2002

Production Photographs