Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
By Alice Birch. Directed by Karla Conway. The Street Company. Childers Street, Acton, Canberra. 28 Nov – 1 Dec 2018

Not subtle, this play starts with a couple in congress, the woman wresting dominance from her partner while renegotiating the language of sex. Later another woman presents her sexual availability and naked body as a consumable alongside grocery items, the shop staff more horrified by her lack of attractiveness than her nakedness.

Howling increasingly potent feminist rage, protest and dark irony, Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again unflinchingly explores they ways in which language itself enmeshes women in social roles, in passive sexuality and as victims of violence. The poetry of the language and non-linear narrative fragments always make this kind of theatre feel wild and fresh, while very much embedded in the tradition of the theatre of the absurd via the surrealist protest theatre of the 1960s and 70s. It was a natural and challenging choice for the debut piece performed by The Street Company, the brand new group based at The Street Theatre set up to nurture young performers in a professional setting.

Director Karla Conway has opted for a lightning fast delivery of this complex script, which young actors dealt with flawlessly. The three young women Hiyab Kerr, Anneka van der Velde and Bronte Forrester handled the pace and intensity of their various roles with ease. It became hard to keep track of what was going on, with the rush of words spilling over the audience, the second last act a surreal pastiche of violent and confusing imagery before a crash and a kind of tense relief in the last act. The frenetic pace didn’t give room to breathe and might have dulled some of the words’ poetic and comic effect. Periodic silences and slower delivery in rich, meaningful language allows words to echo and metaphor and full meanings can become clear—but that was not the choice here. Instead, the torrent of language imparted a sense of the fury with which the script had been written. Setting the action in the centre of the room with seating for about 45 in three rows on either side of the action makes for an intimate atmosphere. A stark, hyperreal lighting design by Jed Buchanan and strong sound design by Kimmo Verronen complete the experience.

This frank, surreal discourse on sex and violence might not be to everyone’s taste, but it will give the audience plenty to think about.

Cathy Bannister

Photographer: Shelly Higgs.

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