Ham & High
Fo's focus on female sexual fate
Lion and Unicorn theatre ***
ITALIAN surrealist Dario Fo's triptych of women and their sexual fate in society is a theatrical tease that continually promises revelation but pulls out at the last minute.
Written with his wife Franka Rame, the play introduces us to three women and their separate sexual hells - the nose-ringed teenager torn between abandon and stability, the housewife locked up by her jealous husband and the Greek classical heroine Medea, whose husband Jason leaves her for a younger woman.
All three characters are played by Rosalind Lonsdale, who opens the play writhing on the floor beneath an over-eager and under-skilled lover.
The image is repeated later in the monologue when she gives birth to a baby girl to whom she tells dark tales of foul-mouthed dolls who destroy men by worming their way in through their arses and exploding.
Fo might have a point there somewhere, but the sniggering imagery doesn't make it seem worth the effort to work out what it is.
More successful is Lonsdale's turn as the middle-aged housewife, jailed in her own home after her husband catches her sleeping with a toy boy.
Here, Lonsdale catches a real sense of tragedy, hypocrisy and frustration through a violent suburban surrealism.
It is certainly more tragic than Fo's romp through the Medea myth which, while acted with skilful poise and precision, is too fleeting to reach the heart.
Until September 19.
by Dario Fo and
Adapted and Directed by Victor Sobchak
A one-woman show with Rosalind Lonsdale
In Orgasmic Revenge, Victor Sobchak has linked three monologues by Fo and Rame, on the common theme of female sexuality and women’s struggle for equality in the bedroom. The Same Old Story zanily shows one woman’s reluctant encounter with motherhood; A Woman Alone is a farce about a bored, frustrated housewife who has been locked up in her flat by her husband; Medea is the classical tale of the woman who wreaks terrible revenge for her husband’s infidelity with a younger woman.
It is a brave choice for a solo actress: three radically contrasting characters stretch her stylistic and emotional range and, on her own on stage, often scantily clad, often faced with sexually explicit language and situations, Rosalind Lonsdale is very exposed, particularly in this most intimate of spaces. Fortunately, Lonsdale is an engaging, charismatic actor, who soon builds a warm rapport with the audience, helped by her confidential chats during costume changes.
There are moments, particularly in The Same Old Story, when it seems that actor and director are both trying a little too hard. Overuse of accents, caricatures, too much frenetic bouncing about and Sobchak’s urge to push the pace too hard sometimes detract from the quality of the writing.
But the surreal puppet show (where a collection of children’s toys undergo a madcap string of homicidal and sexual adventures) carries the audience along with its energy, and when Lonsdale’s easy, unselfconscious physicality is put to good use (as in a hilarious scene where she performs ante-natal exercises on stage) the result is mesmerising.
A Woman Alone is definitely the strongest piece, despite being a deceptively difficult text. I’ve seen productions which have over-emphasised the farcical and made the protagonist, not the situation, look ridiculous. Sobchak, however, directs with a deft, light touch and Lonsdale , a natural comedienne, makes her character funny, sexy, feisty, but, above all real, and the audience is left in no doubt that it is macho Italian society, not the character, which is being sent up.
In Medea, Lonsdale gives a creditable performance which demonstrates her versatility, but doesn’t quite achieve enough tragic depth, and there’s a feeling of the production going out with less of a bang than a whimper.
Uneven then, but an intriguing and gutsy performance that is well worth seeing.
Reviews by Melanie Branton for Theatreworld Internet Magazine
This play written by Dario Fo and Franka
Rame is in reality two plays in one each featuring woman and their
sexual problems brought about by their relationship.
Woman one, a teenager with an unwanted
pregnancy who is in a quandary between having a child and the
commitment it involves and Woman two, locked in her house by a
jealous husband following previous a discovered affair.
Rosalinde Lonsdale who is probably more
suited to woman two, but gives a performance that is totally
credible in each role, plays both women.
The direction is tight, the set effective and although this is maybe not the easiest of plays to start the morning viewing is certainly well worth checking out.