Five women is a company.


It is a good piece “A woman alone” that has left audience open- mouthed for strong emotions. The show is at Brockley Jack Theatre, London, from 19th October to 6th November 2010.

It is a classic pièce of the Italian couple Dario Fo and Franca Rame. Originally conceived as a monologue it was written in 1977 for the show “Tutta casa, letto e chiesa” (She is all bed, board and church).

The innovation of Matthew Parker (director) and Saba Burali (producer) is to split it in five facets, each one with a dedicated actress, each one representing an aspect of the protagonist personality.

The idea is good and the five actresses – Alison Shaw, Cristiana Dell’Anna, Laura Harling, Fleur Sheperd and Joanna Waters – play very well together, moving in unison, almost like in a ballet, in a bright structured choreography.

The script is well translated into English – Gillian Hannah – a difficult work as the original contains many phrasal verbs. In the original Franca Rame plays with words in her sophisticated style made of nuances. In this version body action take the place of the nuances. It is interesting to see how emotions can come from different situation.

The plot is apparently simple. Sharon is locked up in a flat by her husband. She lives a poor life and has only radios for company. She spends all day doing household chores. Sharon cannot go out. She takes care of her brother – in –law. He is completely plastered because of an accident. He is a groper and molests her often. She has two children but one is going out with friends already and the other is a baby unable to talk.

Briefly, Sharon is alone. The husband calls many times a day to control her. And in front of her building there’s a wanker watch her all the day.

In a recent past, she had an affair with a young student, discovering sex it is not only a sort of abuse of her husband but could be enjoyable. But during the encounter the husband found them and she attempts suicide. Now the husband keeps her locked at home. The show ends with Sharon getting completely mad and she starts to shoot with a gun.

This is a strong piece on woman condition that describes very well the situation in Italy in the 1970s. Apparently, it looks like in a contrast with the free city of nowadays London, but it is not so far, especially considering the melting of cultures.

The play deals with ”women‘s sexual servitude”. The work is a digest of relevant women‘s issues, from sexual harassment to enslavement by ”bed, board and church”.

It worth remember the framework within the original show was produced. Dario Fo and Franca Rame are one of the most important couple of the Italian culture of every time. Still they are very politically active and fighting for civil and human rights.

In the 1960s they were banned by the RAI, the national Italian broadcast television, for a song that today makes difficult to understand the reasons.

Following the banning by the television, they started to tour Italy but had many problems like police raid, closing of their show, and bomb attack to venues hosting them. For their performances they clashed with many, including the Vatican, the right wing, the left wing, the censorship, the Catholics, the Italian Communist Party.

They started to play in occupied factories and open places like in the medieval theatre performance. In fact, in 1969 Fo presented Mistero Buffo (Comic Mystery) a play of monologues based on a mix of medieval plays and topical issues, similar to popular storytelling and it had more than 5000 performances. It can be considered the formative moment of the “teatro di narrazione” from which nowadays the Italian storytellers have developed what it is called “teatro civile” or “teatro sociale” (civil theatre or social theatre) focused on the dark sides of the recent Italian history.

“Tutta casa, letto e chiesa” it was the debut of Miss Rame as a protagonist without Dario. The work was a block of nine monologues, one of which was “Rape” inspired to the true story of the despicable kidnapping of Franca Rame in 1973 by a fascist group that tortured and raped her, the male stereotypical punishment reserved to feminine genre. In the sordid affair were involved high ranking officials of Carabinieri (the Italian federal police). The kidnappers have not been punished and for the length of the trial they will never be.

Therefore “Tutta casa, letto e chiesa” was a strong j’accuse of the Italian male chauvinist society and supported the women liberation movement.

During all these years Dario Fo and Franca Rame have been awarded many times and received honoris causa from many universities.

In recent years they were elected members of the Italian Parliament.

In 1997 Dario Fo received the Nobel Prize for Literature with the following motivation: “who emulates the jesters of the Middle Ages in scourging authority and upholding the dignity of the downtrodden”.

The Brockley Jack Theatre show goes much in deep and leaves you with a sturdy feeling. It is strongly suggested for women, men will feel ashamed to be a man. It is a lecture on couple relationship, a lesson for her, very much worthwhile for him.

Maybe the producer, DogOrange ltd, could deserve in the future the surprise to bring on stage all the monologues of “Tutta casa, letto e chiesa”?