What does revolution look like? What are the steps one can take to revolutionise their relationships, jobs, everyday spaces? Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is about feminist rising up, rewriting, and reimagining a new world on the other side of deconstruction.
An ensemble cast of six swap scenes of revolution from changing the language of relationships, to reprioritising the position work takes in your life, to completely breaking down the concept of family. These scenes work to reframe feminist discourse with a tongue-in-cheek prescription for change and intermingling the concerns of feminist activism to illustrate the complexity of the movement and its prospective “solution”.
The production is at times very funny in depictions of uncomfortable or familiar situations and adding irony to anti-feminism attitudes but the shift into sinister is subtle and quite painful to witness. Birch’s experimental script dismantles typical narrative structure into points of argument that collect to challenge and complicate expectations of the feminist theatre piece. Beginning with self-contained vignettes about everyday confrontations, the script then dissolves into more complex scenes where actors build and collapse relationships rapidly, speak directly to the audience in didactic monologue, and collude to imagine a future feminist world.
Direction from Rosie Niven maintains a measured pace throughout in a production that operates with a certain level of expected understanding of feminist histories and concerns. Set on an open white stage with exposed props and costume changes, Isabella Niven’s design provides transparency to the construction of the performance, which further plays into notions of the piece as political argument rather than theatre magic. Lighting design (Jasmin Borsovszky) and sound design (Kipp Lee) worked well together to add dimension to the blank stage including small moveable lights used as self-spotlights for the actors to direct attention between each other and themselves. At times the lighting transitions, especially in changes of colour, seemed off-beat to the emotional undulations of the script but these changes were still effectively atmospheric.
Akala Newman as the unofficial spokesperson for the production was commanding in her to-audience monologues though sometimes one-noted in presentation. Samantha Lush as a deliberately quarrelsome boss and a feminism merchandiser displayed excellent comic timing with naturalistic delivery that lended her characters authenticity. Additionally, Chloe Brisk found great humour in someone caught up in the neurotic over-performance of wokeness without sacrificing believability. Overall the ensemble is strong in its dynamic and the actors adapt well to changing circumstances and tones throughout the production.
In this play of revolution, Niven finds the self-satire, hypocrisy, irony, disappointment, and hope in the feminist movement and draws these elements into a complicated reflection of the current discourse. In engaging angrily and sillily with its audience and wider conversations of equity and equality, Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. reaches towards another imagining that recognises the many nuances of great change.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is running at Erskineville Town Hall from September 10th – 14th as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival