Presented by Burjesta Theatre
Unity Theatre, Liverpool
23rd September 2017
Reviewed by Finvola Dunphy
With minimal set and costume, Burjesta’s recent production, ‘An Evening Of Franca Rame and Dario Fo’, left nothing to distract from the expert performances.
The show was performed in the intimate setting of Liverpool’s Unity Theatre and consisted of four stories, ‘A Woman Alone’, ‘The Rape, ‘Rise and Shine’ and ‘Medea.’ All of which captured the feminist struggle through the ages.
Miklya Durkan, co-artisic director of Burjesta Theatre and actress in ‘A Woman Alone’, gave a stunning portrayal of a woman confined in a tiny apartment driven mad by her daily struggles. Scattering between a buzzing doorbell, ringing telephone, a squealing baby, agitated groper and avoiding the gaze of a peeping Tom, Durkan’s energetic performance brought vitality and chaos to the stage.
Overt and grotesque in its contemporary interpretation, ‘A Woman Alone’ challenged not only feminist values but the cleanliness of an audience’s mind with masterful offstage actions that left a little or a lot to the imagination.
A focused spotlight and a woman dressed in black was all the assistance needed to support Helen Lanceley’s depiction of Franca Rame’s actual abduction and rape. The renowned Italian activist and dramatist not only challenged theatre conventions but government propaganda, much to the outrage of a group of Italian fascists who, in March 1973, abducted, raped and beat Rame before leaving her in a park.
It is suspected that the group were commissioned by officials in Milan’s Carabinieri (Italian Federal Police). Lanceley’s performance sent shivers through my spine when she appeared on stage with tearful eyes that glistened with pain and heartache. She recounted details of being slashed with razor blades and burnt with cigarettes with utterly raw emotion.
This story ends with Rame standing outside a police station and deciding not to enter for fear that she would be ignored or that the ordeal would be repeated. A heartbreaking portrayal of a powerless woman in the face of institutionalised crime.
‘Rise and Shine’ offered some much needed comic relief and began with a spotlight on a bed where a woman was awakening from a dream about losing her fingers at work. The bed was the only piece of set need for Maggi Green, who expertly conveyed the struggles of a working woman with a young child and an irresponsible husband.
This monologue required an astounding use of physicalisation and mime and Green was certainly up to the task. She mimed an entire stressful morning which consisted of getting to work, preparing the baby for nursery and trying to wash with temperamental taps.
With interweaving stories of a lost key, caring for a child and a tumultuous marital relationship, ‘Rise and Shine’ depicted all elements of contemporary female life only to conclude that it was Sunday all along!
Based on Euripides’ classic Greek tragedy, Burjesta’s modernised interpretation of ‘Medea’ proved the relevance of the female struggle. It had a nuanced and almost sympathetic portrayal of Medea’s battle to take charge of her own life in a male-dominated world. Miklya Durkan excelled in her performance armed with only a cape as a prop. She used it to convey the insignificance of a woman’s voice in the face of domineering masculinity.
She juxtaposed between using the cape as a shield by which to hide behind and an exhibition of the extreme power that derives from a woman’s new found strength and liberation. With striking and direct appeals to the audience, Durkan demonstrated a woman’s madness after being ignored and undermined for too long. Crazed, she mimed, plunging a dagger into her own children before backing into the black of the curtain leaving only the image of sinister eyes that could penetrate the soul.
Burjesta’s contemporary production exhibited all elements of feminism with its grotesque-comic interpretation of Franca Rame and Dario Fo’s illustrious plays. The wonderful all-woman cast did not falter in their performances, highlighting the many facets of the female character with humour and ferocity.