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Female Parts: Shorts review at Hoxton Hall, London – ‘subverting stereotypes’

Claire Perkins in Female Parts: Shorts at Hoxton Hall, London. Photo: Sharron Wallace

Female Parts: Shorts is a collection of three monologues subverting female roles both onstage and off.

All three – A Woman Alone and The Mother, both by Franca Rame and Dario Fo, and The Immigrant by OneNess Sankara – reduce their protagonists to a label, then demonstrate how wholly inadequate these descriptions are.

Karena Johnson directs three very different pieces in tone and energy. The linking factor is that the attention is always and emphatically on the women talking.

The first, A Woman Alone, is about a mother locked in a house by her husband after she has been caught having an affair with her much younger Italian teacher. In a fever-pitch version of the housewife spinning-many-plates trope, the narrative unspools faster and faster, turning into a farcical version of Greek tragedy. Gehane Strehler performs it with convincing rage, but the use of comedy ultimately diminishes the rawness of the woman’s emotions.

A Mother continues the theme of being a woman suffocated by the choices and behaviours of the men around her, in this case a son who has been incarcerated on terrorism charges. Performed by Rebecca Saire, it’s best in its brutal moments – a cavity search, a strangulation fantasy.

Sankara’s The Immigrant is, however, the absolute stand-out of the programme. Amanda (Clare Perkins), first black female astronaut, is ostensibly recording a graduation ceremony address. Instead, her words become a multi-layered exploration of motherhood, race, marriage and ambition. Its brilliance is that, like its character, it refuses to provide an easy answer.

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Mixed collection of monologues that challenge female stereotypes featuring one standout piece