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Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.’ by Alice Birch – Old 505 Theatre

The Buzz From Sydney Sylvia Keays, 9 May 2019

Ploughing through – powerful, strong, alive and intense – this play takes the audience on a steadfast and unpredictable journey. You will not know exactly where you are going, but sense that this theatrical experience will be a most memorable one. Broken up into four acts – each act completely different from the last – in style and scenario. Each scene is identified by an abstract title, such as “Revolutionize the language (invert it)”, or “Revolutionize the world (don’t reproduce)” and “Revolutionize the body (stop eating).”

The through line in the play is sexual politics and sexual abuse – abuse women have endured throughout history, and abuse that is thoroughly rife in society today. Playwright Alice Birch is seething in her expression of this injustice and inequality and has created this piece that has fierce impact and is unapologetic in form.

Act one begins somewhat gentle in comparison to the rest of the production. A man and woman talking sex – however she dominates him through language (as a man would to a woman) and leaves him feeling small, a shell of a person, a mere object. Moving to a new scene with a lesbian couple, one proposing marriage to the other. The one proposed to – feeling oppressed and her freedoms threatened by asking to be involved in what she interprets as a patriarchal and essentially misogynistic tradition of companionship. The next scenario is between a female alpha boss, negotiating with her female employee about part time hours – why on earth would she want to work less hours…is the employee pregnant?! For a moment – both women have a little giggle at the suggestion of equality in the work place.

The next powerful scene is about a woman who committed an inappropriate act in a famous grocery store, not unlike Woolworths. The woman expresses herself in monologue that she’s been trying in various ways to destroy everything about herself that makes her a sex object for others. Nothing seems to work, so she has resorted to – ‘they cannot invade if you want it.’

Act two is a singular scene incorporating three generations of women – each woman disturbed directly or indirectly by domestic abuse. The act ends with the granddaughter and grandmother choosing to silence them selves through self -inflicted violence. From here on out, the play becomes more abstract, and a total cacophony of contradictions, overlapping language and theatricality – where neither language nor delivery is in sync with the other.

The stage directions in the script express: ‘most importantly, this play should not be well behaved.’ And this production is indeed far from being well behaved – it’s thrilling to witness and extraordinarily delivered. The acting is truly superb. All of the actors in this piece are beyond committed, fearless and captivating, this is one of the most exciting and alive pieces of theatre that I have had the opportunity to see in some time.

I recommend everyone see this production at the Old 505. It may not all make complete sense, perhaps that is the point. See this for your self – and I challenge any audience member to not walk away feeling intrigued, horrified, impacted – and thrilled by such alive and electric theatre.


Theatre Now Review: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

Theatre Now M. Osbourne, 8 May 2018

Alice Birch’s Revolt She Said. Revolt Again. is a gutsy, full-throttled play that drives home a message of rebellion and revolution without any brakes.

As we enter the performance space of the Old 505 Theatre, a throbbing bass accompanies a man pacing back and forth behind panels of translucent silk that hang from the ceiling. Instead of Brechtian placards, we are given textbook instructions on a huge projection that dominates the space; “REVOLUTIONIZE THE LANGUAGE: INVERT IT”. It feels as if we are watching something private but as the opening act between man and woman unfolds, it becomes obvious this is not a dialogue about sex and intimacy, but a battle of power and status; what happens when the language is in reversed and man is told to spread his legs?

House of Sand’s production of this work is a call to arms and a demand for the ‘other’ to be heard. It explores the lust for radicalism that inherent frustration evokes, whilst forcing the audience to consider what happens when there is passion for change but no strategy. Director Charles Sanders overwhelms us quite deliberately and unapologetically with strong symbolism and a truly sensorial experience as we are lurched into each act of the play. Sanders’ intellect and deep consideration of the themes in this play are potent, and this is so important as such a bold work has potential to leave an audience disorientated and frustrated.

Whilst some moments feel as though the director has perhaps tried to combine too many stylistic and symbolic layers; we are left feeling disturbed and restless for change and this is the crux of what the play is about.

Stephanie Howe’s design is simple and effective – she has mastered the space with simple choices that both close and open it up in accordance with how involved the audience should feel. Layers of the set design are literally stripped back until there is nothing to hide behind and the fourth wall is broken entirely. The lighting design (Sophie Pekbelimli) complements Howe’s work beautifully and offers the intensity demanded by the script as it punches on with little delay between acts. Danielle O’Keefe’s sound design is superb and does much in the way of guiding us through the work with pulsing transitions and soundscapes that underlay scenes; bringing an intensity no other design element can.
The intensity and irreverance of the production is supported by a powerhouse cast and Sanders has made the choice to subvert roles that traditional read as masculine by having a majority female cast. Violette Ayad, Anna Cheney, Enya Daly, Richard Hilliar, Moreblessing Maturure and Eliza Sanders all contribute to an outstanding performance and there is a strong sense of ensemble at work.

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. runs until May 19 at the Old 505 Theatre, Newtown. It is call for action with consideration and it should be seen and heard, now.


REVIEW | Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

What's On Sydney Georgia Cassimatis, 8 May 2018

Firstly, there is always a buzz of excitement when seeing any play at the Old 505 theatre in Newtown because I know I’ll be in for a contemporary theatrical ride of genius, talent and thought provoking concepts told in rather brilliant, unique, strange, new, and dynamic ways….and this one delivers just that and more.

 ‘Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again’, by British playwright Alice Birch is a fierce, challenging, verging

on angry exploration into the mental, emotional and physical struggles of being a woman, post the feminist revolution. Are we better off, or have we simply become entrapped in the world of Government laws and corporate culture, where the more we ‘conquer’ in deconstructing the female ‘myth’, the more futile it has become, combined with the seemingly vast amount of ‘work’ there is yet to do.

These social constructs are explored brilliantly, through a series of stories, with epithets meandered throughout such as ‘I’m a very busy woman with a lot on my plate’, ‘I just want more sleep’, ‘Revolutionise The Body (Make It Sexually Available Constantly)’, ‘Revolutionise The World (Don’t Associate With Men) (Marry) (Have Children)’. Interestingly only one man is featured in the cast of six, appearing almost as the ‘second sex’: submissive, spoken over, spoken for, discarded, verging on tokenistic.

Captivating from the start is the first feminist tale of a man (Richard Hilliar) and woman (Eliza Sanders) who role swap verbal foreplay; the woman becoming the dominant player, confusing him with her sexual ‘penetration’ and use of language.  Following is a lesbian couple, one of whom is outraged that her partner (Anna Cheney) could possibly think of entertaining, let alone proposing, such horrendous ‘ownership’ of another being (Violette Ayad). Then there is corporate power boss (Anna Cheney) who does anything to lure her employee (Enya Daly) into not wanting time off: the employee insisting she wants to spend Mondays on a farm, so she can sleep: a disturbing look into how women have gained corporate ‘freedom’ only to become yet again, enslaved, begging the question: if we have the power and we’re all wanting more sleep why can’t we change things? Other scenes include a supermarket chain where  two employees; a male (Richard Hilliar) and female (Moreblessing Maturure) are abusing a woman who decided to lie down in an aisle to expose her genitals to everyone: the female boss not only humiliating the customer but also speaking on behalf of her male colleague; who does not really know what he is doing.

The culmination of all scenes is when chaos ensues and numerous ad hoc characters make pithy appearances including a salesman for hymens, a male porn star, a mother whose child is writing short stories about cellulite and thigh gap, as t-shirts with feminist slogans are thrown into the audience: the theme that women are constantly bombarded and overstimulated with messages on how to be; the sad denouement of which is how it all got to this?

Rather brilliant, and with so many directions this could have gone, the Co Artistic Directors Charles and Eliza Sanders nailed this one perfectly. Declaring it to be ‘one of the most important plays of the decade’, the Australianised version came from numerous interviews with women of all diversities and backgrounds.

Powerfully performed and directed on all fronts, this left me more acutely aware of my own role in female ‘entrapment’ and curious as to how the next wave of ‘feminism’ will revolt against it.

For theatre-goers this is an absolute must-see.


"PLAYS THAT QUICKEN THE PULSE ARE TOO RARE"

Audrey Journal Jason Blake, 6 May 2018

British writer Alice Birch’s incendiary act of theatre raises a fist to patriarchal structures and male violence everywhere: in relationships, the workplace, the family, in the words we speak.

The opening salvo – surtitled “Revolutionise the language (invert it)” – is a comic scene in which a lusting man (played by Richard Hilliar) attempts a verbal seduction. Unmoved by his tone deaf efforts, the woman (Eliza Sanders) takes his language, skews it female and hurls it back.

In the next scene, an offer of marriage (featuring Violette Ayad and Anna Cheney) is brutally deconstructed. In the next, performed by Cheney and Enya Daly, an employee’s demand to not work Mondays provokes a spiralling series of counter-offers in defence of the corporate workplace.

Later, another workplace drama, this time a kangaroo court of supermarket managers (Hilliar and Moreblessing Maturure, at first) who interrogate, then fat-shame a woman found sprawled semi-naked among smashed watermelons in aisle 7.

The woman (Daly) counters with a searing riposte to the omnipresent threat of sexual violence and porn culture:

“Lie down and become available. Constantly. Want to be entered. Constantly. It cannot be an Invasion, if you want it. They Cannot Invade if you Want It. Open your legs and throw your dress over your head, pull your knickers down and want it and they can invade you no longer.”

So it goes, with each scene darker and more chaotic than the one preceding it.

Plays that quicken the pulse are too rare, and Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. certainly does that. It never quite feels truly dangerous or unruly, but this production, directed by Charles Sanders for the independent company House of Sand, exhibits a wild side you don’t often see in Sydney’s pervasively polite theatre scene.

It’s messy (watermelon, everywhere), compelling and the performances are strong. Birch gives every member of the cast a spotlight moment (one of the more conventional elements of the play) and all rise to the occasion here, especially Cheney as the frazzled boss, Daly as the supermarket protester, and actor-dancer Eliza Sanders in a variety of roles.


BWW REVIEW: With Captivating Clarity REVOLT.SHE SAID.REVOLT AGAIN Reminds Us That There Is Still A Long Way To Go In Achieving The Respect And Recognition Women Deserve

Broadway World Sydney Jade Kops, 6 May 2018

In a world more cognisant of inequality when it comes to gender, Alice Birch's REVOLT.SHE SAID.REVOLT AGAIN reminds us that change has not been fully achieved at that we cannot stop fighting. Under Charles Sander's careful and considered direction, the brilliant cast of six present a range of examples of how the world would look if misogyny and a male dominated culture were challenged by inverting the stories along with expressions of how ingrained the violence and abuse of women has become and therefore the size of the challenge faced to change mindsets.

This work, which saw its stage debut in 2014 with the Royal Shakespeare Company and won Birch the George Devine Award for Most Promising Playwright, is confronting and captivating and unfortunately recognisable and relatable. Charles and his cast of Violette Ayad, Anna Cheney, Enya Daly, Richard Hilliar, Moreblessing Maturure and Eliza Sanders (also co-Artistic Director of House Of Sand with Charles) are not afraid to challenge the audience with formidable displays of feminine power as they bring to life Birch's words which seek to show what a shift in power would look like whilst also expressing the humanity that seeks to understand and educate. With a series of short scenes, punctuated by projections of statements urging revolution and how to achieve it, common conversations are reframed to give loudest voice to the person usually least heard, whether it be the woman in a heterosexual relationship with a man that uses aggressive and self-serving language that he expects is a turn on, a recipient of a marriage proposal who sees it as something other than a declaration of love, or a worker wanting work life balance but being met with corporate deafness and programs put in place to placate and ignore. Other stories are presented from women who are seeking change, from the woman tries to remove the power men have by reframing her vulnerability to the recognition of efforts made to save oneself but also the confusion of how that correlates with the maternal instincts. Some works are straight forward with meaning easily apparent, others, like Act 3's layered confusion capture the relentless number of issues that still exist but aren't necessarily getting the coverage they deserve or are quickly dismissed as new fights emerge.

Stephanie Howe gives the performers a relatively simple space to tell their stories, initially encased in white sheers, the white focal point of the stage remains relatively bare throughout. Her costuming coveys the power dressing that whilst indicating a shift in control also shows signs of the patriarchal society that convinces women that they need to have makeup, heels and padded shoulders to be seen as 'fit for the job'. Howe uses the costuming to draw on references to historical figures like Emmeline Pankhurst and the performers use their physicality, such as Cheney's rendition of Julie Bishop's piercing stare to remind the audience that the struggle for equality and recognition isn't a new concept. Sophie Pekbilimli's lighting allows the focus to be drawn on the characters whilst holding the stage in shadows during scene changes, allowing the suspense to be held and the machinations of the performance to be glimpsed as the work straddles between script and characterisation and what appears to be realism and truth in the delivery which appears as a struggle between the performer and the piece.

Whilst Eliza Sanders' history is predominantly as a dancer and choreographer, this foray into dramatic work is wonderful as she presents a delicious confidence and power in scene one whilst being able to capture the innocence of the damaged young child in scene five. Violette Ayad gives a strong, considered but passionate voice to the growing view that marriage is more a transaction than a declaration of love whilst Anna Cheney presents a number of women who have adopted the masculine mentality and seemingly forgotten their feminine roots reminding the audience that change needs to occur without loosing sight of who we are and morphing into a male mindset isn't the answer. Enya Daly's turn as the woman attacked by the supermarket management delivers a captivating monologue of the proposal to remove the power of assault and objectification by offering it in the manner that people argue that burlesque dancers and prostitutes are actually empowered as they dictate the control of their bodies raising the question of whether that power is removed from men, will behaviours change. Moreblessing Maturure is formidable as the supermarket manager talking over her male counterpart but it is her portrayal of a daughter wanting answers from a broken mother as she seeks to offer her own child a better future is the most poignant as the damage of domestic violence is recounted. As the sole male of the piece, Richard Hilliar presents the awful insensitivity of the male voice that lurks through the scenes with the requisite arrogance and ignorance to the weight of his words.

REVOLT.SHE SAID.REVOLT AGAIN is a captivating, confronting call to action. For those that understand the challenges and had moments of recognition, possibly being subjected to the inequality of the patriarchal society, it is a reminder that we still have a fight for lasting change. This is an important work for everyone to see, not just those that are already aware of the need for equality and action but those that may be perpetuating the problems of the patriarchal society, be that male or female. Do not miss this important production.


Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

Stage Whispers Carol Wimmer, 5 May 2018

Alice Birch writes unreservedly and unabashedly about how women are treated at home, in bed, at work, even in the supermarket. She writes in a blatantly feminist voice that is loud and bold and unembarrassed. And that is what she demands of the cast that brings this play to the stage. Her stage instructions at the beginning of the play are explicit:

If any vomiting, crying or shouting needs to happen off stage, the audience should be able to glimpse it.

There shouldn’t be any set.

The play should be performed without props … and …

Most importantly, this play should not be well behaved.

Charles Sanders and the cast of Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. have taken Birch’s instructions to heart in this play which is a no-holds-barred attack on chauvinism, misogyny, sexism and sexting. It requires a confidence and chutzpa from its performers. They must be daring, brazen, and be convinced about what they are saying and doing. In this production Violette Ayad, Anna Cheney, Enya Daly, Moreblessing Maturure, Eliza Sanders – and lone male Richard Hilliar – do so with lots of energy, guts and many (probably too many) costume changes.

The play is a collection of scenes – some longer than they need to be to make the point, especially if the play is 20 minutes late going up, as happened on opening night.

One scene questions the language and ‘art’ of seduction, another the implications behind marriage. In one awful scene, set on a stage awash with pieces of watermelon, a daughter violently castigates her mother for putting up with domestic violence. The play culminates with a fast-moving, but long, barrage of conflicting feminine images from cellulite to pornography, high heels to hymens. Actors move quickly around the stage bombarding the audiences with a kaleidoscope of words, signs and images that confront and provoke.

This is not a play for the faint-hearted. It makes its points, sledge-hammer like, in a manifesto of language and actions that are aggressively provocative – just as the playwright intended. In less challenging terms, the Co-Artistic Directors of House of Sands hope the production reflects “the enormity and complexity of the tasks still ahead to achieve equality and a non-patriarchal society”.


Review: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. (House Of Sand)

Suzy Goes See Suzy Wrong, 4 May 2018 

The play begins as though a manual providing instruction on becoming a radical feminist, offering steps of revolutionary action to attain some kind of ideal state of being. For those who understand their subjugation, the idea of taking down the powerful is always appealing, but the truth remains, that vacuums are nonviable and breaking something down requires the installation of something new. Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is a thrilling ride for anyone with a taste for rebellion. Its militant spirit is seductive, with powerful declarations that will excite those similarly inclined. The piece evolves unexpectedly, introducing in later portions, complexities that confront its own passionate proclamations of earlier scenes. Birch wants us mobilised, but in a smart way. Activism cannot thrive only on impulse. Long term strategies must accompany courses of action, or we risk ending up at a place worse than before.

The show speaks resonantly, with director Charles Sanders’ intellect a fortifying authority that establishes clarity for all its arguments. The politics in Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. are made compelling by Sanders’ palpable enthusiasm for the subject matter, and their insistence that we hear its messages, translates into excellent drama. Design style is fairly simple for the production, with Joanne Joy’s visual projections particularly effective in helping to assert some of the highly provocative concepts.

All six performers for the piece are impressive, each one given ample opportunity to put on display their individual talents, as well as a unifying and admirable conviction pertaining to the material at hand. Eliza Sanders imbues her lines with authenticity and precision, delivering a delightful acerbity with every utterance, and equally memorable for her disciplined physical expressions. The imposing figure of Moreblessing Maturure is accompanied with a tender vulnerability, especially convincing in a maternal role, conveying unassailable qualities of our humanity with beautiful restraint and confidence. The lone thorn among the roses is Richard Hilliar, whose comedy hits all the right notes, whether understated, madcap or frighteningly bombastic. Violette Ayad and Enya Daly bring emotion when we least expect it, creating additional dimensions to an already rich work, and Anna Cheney’s ability to oscillate between realism and the flamboyantly bizarre, has us fascinated and entertained.

Anarchy may not be the answer we need, but the power of resistance must never be underestimated. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is full of inspiration, for those of us who recognise the concerns that it raises. Revolutions must start somewhere, and the personal can be the site on which we begin positioning the battleground. Warriors have the capacity for long, hard slogs, and they understand that to suffer the pains of combat, far surpasses the unbearable torment of injustice. Fights are best undertaken when there is light at the end of tunnel. In the business of social activism, soldiers will get beaten down every day, but a resilient optimism is the key conspirator, to the ability to know right from wrong.