Female Parts: Shorts is a collection of three confessional monologues from three different women labelled the wife, mother and immigrant. The monologues explore these labels, highlighting the darker side of the patriarchal ideals of motherhood and being a housewife. Whilst these labels are excellent springboards for deeper discussions about the lived experiences of women, the final label of immigrant does not work as well as the others, since the experience described in The Immigrant relates more to motherhood and the pursuit of ambition. Each of the monologues takes place in its own beautiful bespoke set, in a different room of the venue, so there’s a touch of immersion. Shorts definitely could have been a bit shorter to maximise its impact but was a thoroughly enjoyable exhumation of some of the less explored female voices.
Shorts definitely puts its best foot forward with the farcical high energy in A Woman Alone, in which the audience has a fence-side chat with a bubbly housewife played by Gehane Strehler. Strehler’s character has all the household gadgets she could want, such as a different radio station playing in every room, but she has been imprisoned in her house by her husband due to his fears that she may commit adultery. A performance full of nuance, Strehler weaponises the housewife’s chatty eccentric behaviour to highlight her frantic desperation. Suffocated by constant phone calls from her overbearing husband, the cries of her baby, the needs of her injured brother in law, the affections of a younger man and the eyes of the pervert from the flat across the road; the audience watches transfixed as the housewife runs back and forth trying to meet everyone’s demands before descending into madness. After being run ragged, a short interval takes place and we move on to A Mother.
Despite the interval, the starkly different tone of A Mother is somewhat jarring. Slower and dealing with quieter grief and anger, A Mother takes slightly longer to adjust to and engage with. It tells the story of a middle-class liberal mother coming to terms with the fact that her son is a terrorist who has murdered a police officer. Rebecca Saire gives an emotive performance as she grapples with the darker side of unconditional love.
In the final piece we look up to space to hear the confessions of The Immigrant (Claire Perkins). Perkins plays an astronaut agonising over a graduation speech she must give from an international space station. Perkins is suspended from a rope so she can simulate being in zero gravity, and gleefully floats towards the audience who must look up at her. The Immigrant is the only piece that rhymes, and though this works in the context of the individual monologue, it is again a jarring transition. The Immigrant is delightful and Perkins gives such warmness and relatability to her character who is being to forced to choose between her family and dream of becoming an astronaut. The Immigrant grapples with the guilt she feels for “abandoning her daughter”, the anger she feels at the fact that women often have to choose between their family and career, and her uncertainty about what she should say in her speech. The use of lighting to symbolise the turning on and off of the video camera is also an interesting quirk from Lighting Designer Sherry Coenen.
Overall, Shorts is a thought provoking piece well worth seeing, which brings a novel approach to exploring the diversity of the female experience.
Female Parts: Shorts is playing at Hoxton Hall until 31 March
Photo: Sharron Wallace