A Woman Alone

Franca Rame and Dario Fo Translated by Gillian Hanna
LZA Theatre
Etcetera Theatre, Camden

Marina Margarita Credit: Hilary Knox
Marina Margarita Credit: Hilary Knox
Marina Margarita Credit: Hilary Knox

Franca Rame and Dario Fo’s surreal monologue A Woman Alone is given a warm, amusing performance by LZA Theatre.

Marina Margarita is believable and engaging as the woman imprisoned in her home by those who are supposed to care for her. She has good comic timing and if the character she plays seems slightly quirky then that is understandable given the oddness of her situation.

The woman at the centre of this show seems anything but alone. Her brother-in-law is sitting in the next room, there’s a baby crying for attention upstairs and it seems like every few minutes her husband is 'phoning to check things are okay. What could make her feel more wanted?

There is even a young man to whom she used to give Italian lessons who is obsessively in love with her and another man who whistles appreciatively at her every time he sees her through the window of his nearby flat. Anonymous calls from a sex pest also keep her company.

She cannot feel unwanted. Her husband wants her so much he has locked her in her home to keep her safe and demonstrates his love by beating her. His brother wants her so much he gropes her at every opportunity he gets and her young Italian lover spends the latter part of the play visible only as an arm stretching through a crack in the door beckoning her to him.

There is also plenty to keep her busy. Three washing lines of clothes hang the width of the stage waiting to be collected and in the corner of the room there is a pile of clothes to be ironed.

She is sure she should feel sexual with her husband but doesn’t. She even lists the erogenous zones which should have heightened her sensitivity, but names them as if they are slabs of meat in a butcher's shop (loin, rump, fillet, grand roast).

Not only has she never had an orgasm, but the word itself sounds strange to her, and after she had the entire audience chanting it in different ways it did indeed sound like a very strange word.

Speaking directly to the audience, she tells us these things with no sense of anger. She is mostly cheerful as if this is the way the world is. Nevertheless, it doesn’t make her comfortable and she has even attempted to slash her wrists three months earlier.

That is one way the abuse she endures might have ended but this short satire warns us of a different, rather deadly way a woman might respond to male oppression. Let’s hope we change the world enough to make that solution unnecessary.

Reviewer: Keith Mckenna