Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

Revolt.  She Said.  Revolt Again.
By Alice Birch. Malthouse. Merlyn Theatre. 16 June – 9 July, 2017

This is vital theatre - the type that demands you think and feel at the same time. 

The first three scenes are staged in a box that is neat and contained, and used to denote several indoor settings.  There is much to laugh about in each of these incidents.  In all three we get to witness a perfectly rational and charming young woman speaking from a perspective that completely destabilizes very deep-rooted social mores around sex, marriage and work.  Words are used to describe what is generally unspoken and, in fact, largely unacknowledged. 

Later this box-like space is disrupted, one could even say violated.  It ultimately becomes troublesome and even aggressively hostile itself in the chaotic and large space of the whole stage of the Merlyn. 

Director Janice Muller’s management of the material is marvelously effective and Marg Horwell’s intuitive design of set and costumes complementary and enhancing.  Everything moves quickly and effectively with great energy.

What starts out as a clear coherent disruption of the sex act (Sophie Ross and Gareth Reeves), a marriage proposal (Gareth Reeves and Ming-Zhu Hii) and a boss - worker relationship (Belinda McCory and Elizabeth Esguerra) becomes a masterfully managed crazy collage of ideas and allusions.   Although I am not sure how many of these are consciously graspable.  

Then comes a description of a woman stripping in a supermarket isle and lying on the floor amongst a messy slather of destroyed watermelons, ready to willingly accept any violation.   Things feel as though they have gone too far – as though, we as women, have accepted/allowed too much.

Stunning performances from actors who touch emotional chords even in the crazy messiest moments of the staging of the most anarchic parts of this work.

Belinda McCory gives a striking performance as the brittle character of the boss who just cannot make it easier for the young worker (Elizabeth Esguerra) to live a more balanced life.  She is also curiously disturbing as the inadequately mothered, inadequate mother of a desperately troubled child.  This scene looks at the tragedy of unhappy and unsuccessful mothering - disrupting any notion that all women are cut out to be mothers.

As audience I laughed a lot but also felt a cliff hanging sense of futility and experienced a distress akin to being plunged into a bottomless pit of desperation.  But all is not in vain and somehow after feeling that one has been pulled backwards through a bramble bush and left out to dry there is a highly cathartic reward of recognition. 

It feels like another step on the journey to find and connect with a truly ‘feminine’ voice.

Suzanne Sandow


Directed by Janice Muller

Set and Costume Design - Marg Horwell

Lighting Design - Emma Valente

Sound, Composition and AV Design - James Brown

Stage Manager – Tia Clarke

Cast:  Elizabeth Esguerra, Ming-Zhu Hii, Belinda McClory, Gareth Reeves and Sophie Ross.

Images: Ming-Zhu Hii, Belinda McClory and Sophie Ross, & Elizabeth Esguerra. Photographer: Pia Johnson

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