Seeing as Franca Rame and Dario Fo’s Orgamso Adulto Escapes from the Zoo consists of nine monologues, it is unsurprising that Octopus Girls chose just two for their Fringe adaptation; “A Woman Alone” and “Same Old Story”. The former, performed by Vanina Arias, introduces us to a woman locked in her apartment and left to deal with a baby, a mysterious caller, and a badly injured brother-in-law with a penchant for groping. The latter, performed by Deborah Durand, follows a woman in a controlling relationship fearing, before embracing, pregnancy. The stage is split between them, each freezing during the other’s scene.
Both sound like tragic stories, but the performances are so much more than that. Durand is childish, petulant and expressive. She performs the vigorous but loveless intercourse her character is enduring by herself, which changes from being comically undignified and becomes difficult to watch as she becomes increasingly miserable. When her partner seems to refuse to use contraception, everything snowballs out of control. Yet Durand keeps the tone light; jumping up and spreading her legs like a crab when she thinks she has been impregnated, to hearty laughter. Durand breaks the image of women in oppressive relationships as mere victims into a complex, if rather childish, character seeking emotional connection. “Same Old Story” is a fitting name; even though she is such a unique character the themes of femininity, maternity and loneliness are universal and keep the story grounded.
Arias, on the other hand, takes an old stereotype and heightens it to a ludicrous degree. She plays an eccentric Italian mother, who talks as much through her hands as she does through her words, and even more through her eyes. In conversation with a new neighbour through the window, she confesses to committing adultery with a giggle of naughtiness. Every time she says she won’t do something, the audience need only wait for an innocent, tempted, near pleading look to come over her face, and eventually, she gives in; answers the phone, tells the secret, says the curse word. It is hilarious yet bitter, exaggerated yet subtle. Seeing her reach her breaking point it is incredibly satisfying, and even a little therapeutic. Adult Orgasm Escaped from the Zoo is a showcase in spectacular acting and feminist theatre at its best.