Fran & Leni

“This shit definitely passes the Bechdel test,” is a statement that can be found emblazoned on the show's marketing material. It sums up Fran & Leni, perfectly: it's brave, brash and challenges the injustices women face as a result of the patriarchal society in which we live. (It's also pretty sweary.)

A great piece of theatre: refreshing, rude and relevant.

Fran & Leni tells the story of two girls who meet in a North London comp and are liberated by the punk movement of the 1970s. The play's a two-hander with very strong performances. Sadie Hasler (Leni) was particularly impressive, performing with truth and commitment at all times. Equally, as Sarah Mayhew (Fran) settled into her role, so her performance became powerful, too; albeit, this came after a less confident opening in which her character portrayal lapsed slightly into caricature.

The play's greatest strength lay in its demonstration of the release offered by the punk subculture. Speaking directly to the audience at one point, Fran and Leni explain how, "[Punk] was catharsis." They later elaborate, describing how punk offered an excellent means of channelling the fury that emerged as a result of everyday sexism and male sexual harassment. While it made for uncomfortable viewing, it was hugely enlightening and helped one appreciate the escapism offered by this movement.

However, while Sadie Hasler is evidently a very talented writer, the play's plot could have benefitted from being a little more focussed. Too many issues were touched upon – child abuse, murder, terminal illness (etc.) – and, as a result, the emotional weight of these issues was sometimes lost. Frankly, the relationship between the two characters was interesting enough that the more melodramatic elements could have been jettisoned.

Nonetheless, it was a great piece of theatre: refreshing, rude and relevant. It not only passed the Bechdel test, it stamped a spike-studded boot in the face of the plays that don't.

Reviews by Alan Stewart

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

1976. Fran & Leni meet in a North London comp. Three years later they are The Rips. Girls with guitars, bored of playing nice. Music, sex, fishnets, tits and spitting. A two-girl escape from everything sugar and spice. 'I was the punk. I was born punk. But she was my rock. The only one I ever had.' Fresh from touring acclaimed play Pramkicker, **** (Guardian), Old Trunk return to Assembly to premiere their new work by award-winning writer Sadie Hasler. 'Twisted genius' (GQ). Directed by Sarah Mayhew. 'Inspired' (FringeReview.co.uk).

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