Lois Ellis first directed Evelyn Krape in Female Parts in 1982. Written by Franca Rame and her theatre collaborator, co-activist and husband Dario Fo (who dedicated his Nobel Prize to her), its monologues addressed issues facing women in their 30s. Originally performed by Rama, and called All House, Bed and Church in the original Italian, it was a loud and strong voice for women in the 1980s.
Writer Sara Hardy wrote the follow-up for the women creators and the characters, now in their 60s. Gooogle isn’t giving me the original scripts, but old programs show me that the three stories follow themes and ideas from the first monologues: there’s too much to do, the kids (now grandkids) need me and I’ve lost the keys; a women imprisoned in her own house; and a fairy-tale about a foul-mouthed dolly and a young women who wants to be an economist.
Krape’s performance is a joy to watch. With a physicality that defies any ridiculous idea about what 60 should look like, she combines clowning with the passion that she feels about the ongoing issues of being a woman and getting old in a world that still needs to grow up a bit in how it treats women and how it treats women as they age. These woman face Centrelink and job training because of a divorce, the pressure of looking like a 20-year-old, and the diminishing hope that the ceiling isn’t glass.
All nail recognisable issues and concerns and let us laugh at what can be a miserable reality. They could all do with tighten – which would also get the work into a stronger one-acter rather than breaking the mood with an interval – but what left a bitter and unsatisfied aftertaste was their conclusions.
SPOILER ALERT. Stop now if you don’t want to know.
Two are resolved by a male relative giving the woman money, and the other is about a woman who accepts imprisonment by her rich husband to be saved from the perceived violent world. The imprisoned one is the only one to finally solve her own problem. The other two can only get out of a dud situation by being passively saved by a man’s money.
I don’t know if this is a reflection of the original scripts. Even if it is, surely this isn’t the story to celebrate and re-tell? The best I can see is that it’s meant to be about the men are giving back everything that the women gave them when they were younger. Still, what begins as positive and honest and hopeful, ends by leaving these women with “being saved” as their only way to happiness.