Revolt. Revolt She Said. Revolt Again. (Vena Cava Productions)
Metro Arts, New Benner Theatre
April 19 – 22
At times, Alice Birch’s “Revolt. Revolt She Said. Revolt Again” is quite unconventional, which makes it well suited as a Vena Cava production. The Queensland University of Technology resident student theatre company begins their Metro Arts presentation of the experimental work with a series of warnings, including of its explicit language, partial nudity and sexual depictions, which are immediately proven to be necessary as its first scene opens to a pre-coital couple navigating the explicit intricacies of language around submission.
This is the first part of Act One‘s revolutionise of the language; although the show runs as 80 minutes without interval, structurally it is served by four fragmented, increasingly furious acts. District and diverse in their forms and use of language, they take us also through revolutionise of the body, the work and the world in a raw and, at times, brutal expression of the female experience.
Staging is ultimately quite vivid and there is a real Brechtian feel to things. Performers remain seated at the side of the stage awaiting their respective scenes, along with racks of costumes at the ready for their use, which is ironic given how scantily clad they are by the latter parts. There is, however, also a clear attention to detail in costuming. Beyond the self-referential sloganised shirts and jackets that signpost the, for example, Company Men that mansplain and spread ahead of a numbed monologue by Keeley Hay of her surrender to society’s awareness of her body, there are costume connections through an angsty back and red aesthetic of safety-pinned plaid and fishnets.
Coded language serves as a key part of the show’s sensibility, with suggestions of rebellion apparent in the punctuation marks of more than just its title and, as acts progress. we find ourselves being moved from the initial scene of a woman’s (Gillian Thompson) attempt to reclaim her Alfa Male partner’s (an impressive Jamie Dickman) explicit language for her own equally intense (but less comfortable to him) use, to a later ensemble one which includes chaotic civil disobedient collision of contradictory words and imagery. On screen projections also serve as a point of emphasis of the show’s essential themes, even if the ahead of their dialogue appearance sometimes takes us out of character connections, especially in monologue.
Motifs emerge more in latter sections… watermelons and blood for instance, though their symbolism is not always clear. It’s all a bit avant-garde so likely not for all audience tastes. Indeed, as a self-proclaimed theatrical uprising, “Revolt. Revolt She Said. Revolt Again” is provocative in its consolidation of how you are expected to behave, which aligns it with Metro Arts’ mantra of championing contemporary art forms. And its themes are, of course, important ones, particularly later commentary on what is now considered sex and satire of what being a feminist means.
It also allows for showcase of some of our city’s emerging talents. Karrine Kanaan is a powerful stage presence as Little Miss Independent in share of
rant rallying cry against marriage to Mr Nice Guy (Joel Dow) and Madeleine Wilson gives an assured performance as Stone Cold Bitch impatiently trying to coax a Drama Queen (Mia Chisholm) to work through mention of unwanted, unperceived perks… because what woman doesn’t want tokenistic chocolate in the vending machine.
There is no doubting the energy and passion of all of the show’s performers, which contributes much to its challenge to change the world, starting with destroying the language of society’s failings that has long reinforced violence against women. Under Hannah Barr’s pacy direction, “Revolt. Revolt She Said. Revolt Again” is powerful theatre, loud, angry and unapologetic in its shout out of feminist themes and consideration of what womanhood means now. See it to be provoked but not necessarily provided with solution, because stark statements aside, there is only so much that even the most socially aware theatre can do.