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theatre review: more female parts

 

Image: Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy

Presented by Darebin Arts’ Speakeasy, More Female Parts is a suite of three monologues written by Sara Hardy specifically to be performed and directed by Evelyn Krape and Lois Ellis, respectively.

 Inspired by the original Female Parts, a series of monologues written in 1977 by Italian duo Dario Fo and Franca Rame, Hardy’s new work explores the experiences of older women and manages to present universal themes that kept the audience laughing and nodding at the same time.  As Krape took her seat as a dressing gowned Julie; she laid her bare feet upon the table and commenced snoring. The woman behind me jokingly whispered to her friend, “That’s me.”

Comic, well-observed and thought-provoking, More Female Parts explores different aspects of female experience. The (largely female audience) laughed with recognition and empathy as Krape played with themes of unemployment, oppression and the glass ceiling. More subtly, and perhaps more successfully than these obvious themes, the three monologues variously consider family and the older female roles within families.

The monologues travel from the realism of unemployment and the Australian welfare system in Can’t Sleep Can’t Sleep, to the hyper real future of online existence and patriarchal control in Penthouse Woman 2044 before concluding with the very funny cautionary parable about the glass ceiling in Hip-Op.

In Can’t Sleep Can’t Sleep Julie is late for a job interview, a necessary task if she is to retain her Centrelink Newstart payment. She describes the exhaustion of babysitting her twin grandchildren in addition to caring for her own aging mother. Julie exclaims she would do anything for her family, but what about her? Surely she needs something too.

We next meet Veronica, the hyper real penthouse woman of the year 2044 who counts her Tubeface friends in the thousands with the help of her Operating System. On her constant circuit of aerobics, Zumba and internet shopping, Veronica fearfully recites affirmations about how happy she is because “60 is the new 30” and “she’s got it all”. It becomes very obvious however, that Veronica, under the watchful eye of her husband, has everything but freedom.

The closing monologue introduces Emily. Beginning with “Once upon a time,” she tells her own gingerbread fairytale of rejecting family expectation and of her quest for “the ivory tower of knowledge” (university). Accompanied by her ambitious, feminist and foul mouthed Fluckety Dolly, Emily climbs the ladder of employment only to be beaten to the top by a less intelligent male garden gnome with a fishing rod.

Hardy’s scripts and Krape’s vocal characterisations are a perfect match, rendering much of the content comedic and quotable as Krape effortlessly switches characters- eliciting from the audience laughter in one minute and concern in the next. The set is minimal but expertly manipulated by Krape to enhance the visual experience of the space. However the space did lack a certain intimacy- I felt very far away from the performer in the raised seating and the overly lit room had me distracted by objects that weren’t part of the set. The lack of intimacy detracted from my ability to truly empathise with Krape’s characters and their very relatable experiences. A more considered use of lighting enhanced the impact of this otherwise wonderfully entertaining one-woman show.

More Female Parts gives its audience permission to laugh at its blend of personal story telling, physical comedy and fairy-tale, which culminates in a light-hearted but in no way trivial presentation of the typically underrepresented experience of older women.

More Female Parts is showing at Northcote Town Hall, Melbourne until February 23rd.

 

 

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