Tuesday, 28 March 2017

REVIEW: A Woman Alone at Etcetera Theatre

Maria enters the scene wearing only a succinct and revealing slip dress, the curlers still in her hair and a crimson lipstick to match a smokey eyeshadow. She's wildly dancing and singing on the loud notes of Jefferson Airplane's Do You Want Somebody to Love. Suddenly, she stops, as she notices our presence across the room, or better, the presence of someone new in the opposite building who's looking at her. Behind her, we can see several lines of clothes hung to dry: bedsheets, baby wraps, underwear and some eye-catching cocktail dresses and shimmering garments in clear contrast with the rest. In a corner of the room an ironing board and, across, a large pile of clothes on the floor. 

When she introduces herself to the new neighbour, she directs her speech to us, as if we were the ones looking through the window, and so we learn how fortunate she is, because her husband treats her like porcelain and provides for her every need. She has a fridge, a modern tumble-dryer, radios in each room and even a TV in the bedroom. Shame, though, that he keeps her locked in the house, although this is definitely for her own sake, since the 'misadventure' she had with that boy who fell in love with her . . . Amongst her core duties, she has to take care of her baby and also of her severely injured brother-in-law, who's entirely cast in plaster, except for a wandering hand, with which he groped all his nurses, making them run away. Fortunately, though, he's quite respectful of his brother's wife, and always asks permission before laying his claw on her. 

Marina Margarita carries out the role with amazing verve and total conviction. Never failing to deliver the tons of energy and concentration required by this fast-paced monologue. Perhaps, involving the audience directly in a chant about the word 'orgasm' wasn't strictly necessary but her and her Aussie accent are cute and she easily gained my sympathy.

Reflecting an attitude ingrained in the Italian mentality – and brilliantly depicted by the late Franca Rame and Dario Fo – A Woman Alone represents a materialistic world, where Maria refuses to admit her dissatisfaction and prevents the shame of a failed marriage by measuring her own happiness with the quantity and quality of the white goods she has at home. Part of a collection called A Woman All Home, Bed, and Church, this play is sharply written, intentionally ambiguous and subtly woven with a dry wit that becomes painful as soon as it's entirely revealed.

Rame and Fo have arguably been the most powerful and creative couple in the
history of Italian theatre. Active from the early 50s until the first decade of the Noughties, they worked relentlessly in line with the left-wing to expose the political and religious lobby which has monopolised the country from the end of WW2 to this day. Constantly boycotted by the centralised power and kept at distance by mainstream channels, the actress turned playwright – who began her career as a child – together with her beloved husband – who received a Nobel prize in literature in 1997 – analysed with striking clairvoyance the recurrent issues of Italian society, translating them in to satirical plays, novels, drawing and paintings. 

A Woman Alone is a funny but highly significant play, which depicts with Rame and Fo's trademark self-irony the condition of many women across the world, which are granted financial security by husbands but, behind closed doors, are denied the fundamental rights of respect, equality and self-determination.

Review by Marianna Meloni

Rating: ★★★★
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