Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again begins as a series of smart, unconnected sketches exploring ways in which women are subjugated, and ends up a chilling experimental dreamscape in which language and structure have entirely broken down.
Featuring no backdrop, few props and four actors playing a series of unnamed characters, this is minimalist theatre taken to its logical conclusion. The closest Alice Birch’s play gets to embellishments is a succession of words projected onto the black rear wall and a few red buckets.
The first sketch shows a man attempting to chat up a woman. “I want to make love to you”, he says earnestly. “Not with me?” she replies. When she later declares “I want to envelop you” he shrinks away. It’s a neat exploration of how everyday sexism is hard-baked into our vernacular, and how attempts to break out of it are seen as emasculating and confrontational.
Things become increasingly harrowing, with a later scene involving a woman being interrogated by supermarket management after taking her clothes off in the middle of the grocery isle. “I’m tired of my body being a battleground,” she says dejectedly. “You can’t conquer me if I have already made myself available”. By the end, all four actors shout over each other for our attention, an angry stream of disconnected words, expressing, perhaps, the frustration of women who are unable to make themselves heard.
The combination of distressing subject matter and the lack of an overarching narrative makes Revolt an increasingly hard slog, crossing into outright uncomfortable territory as the structure disintegrates. But solid acting, sharp dialogue and an authorial propensity to zero in on the open sores on the underbelly of society makes this a worthwhile play nonetheless.
First published in City A.M.