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.
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 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.
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".
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...
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 Alone||Angela Rubik|
|The Same Old Story||Robin Hall|
|Rise and Shine||Francine Huin-Wah|
Rise and Shine
A Woman Alone
Same Old Story
|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|
|Leaflet Design||Pete Woodward|
|Set Design||Sam Emery |
|Publicity||Neil Pugmire |
|Programme Editor||Derek Callam|
|Front of House||Sharman Callam|
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.
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.
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