Dario Fo is a writer of many talents, and A Woman Alone is a particularly striking example of his classic mix of base humour, poetry and surreal situations. Written with his partner Franca Rame, A Woman Alone gives a female performer the chance to showcases her abilities, and when pulled off is a excellent example of the erratic and off-the-wall. Matthew Parker’s interesting decision to split the monologue into 5 voices is a nice experiment, but ended up sapping a lot of the powerful energy of the piece: although it was a thoroughly enjoyable evening of theatre, this was still a flawed attempt at this classic piece.
A Woman Alone describes the trials and tribulations of an unnamed Narrator, a woman with various romantic and real-world entanglements, all of which threaten to overturn her slightly surreal life at any moment. Tensions rise as each problem she faces slowly unravels until we are left with a woman with nothing to lose.
In this production, the voice of the Narrator was split into five: a common trope, apparently, but not one that lends itself to powerful dramatic performances. For one, splitting the voice splits the strain on this woman, robbing the play of a chunk of its energy. Beyond that, the splits often seem a bit arbitrary: why five voices? One for each character facet? One for each problem she had to deal with? This was also the case here: there was no clear deliniation between the different actors, which meant that the split felt less crafted and more bumbled towards. In this case, there was also a timing issue: the first voice spoke for at least ten minutes before the second voice joined her, and the last voice didn’t seem to come on until halfway through: some problems with timing.
However, beyond this production issue, this was a very nicely produced and directing piece: the set was a cavalcade of items, a little too busily organised, but not too distracting. The moments of choreography dotted throughout were either excellent, gelling with the movement of all five women, or shoe-horned in to banging pop: very strange. The sound itself was generally too loud: while it is supposed to be too loud at the beginning, the dial unfortunately never got turned down.
This is certainly not a bad production, but the major issue here (the splitting of the lead) did let the whole evening down: as said above, an interesting experiment, but didn’t come off as well as hoped.