There are no easy answers in Alice’s Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. at the Traverse. In 70 minutes Birch runs the gamut of female and male perspective. Our preconceived or misappropriated ideas of feminism fall apart as Revolt somehow maintains its humour and warmth even through all its anger. The wonderfully chaotic structure of the play itself is an apt metaphor for the mess we’ve got ourselves into.
Sex jokes abound in the first twenty minutes. In a hilarious opening scene traditional gender roles are reversed and the vagina becomes the dominant phallic “organ” that is all enveloping, leaving the male partner feeling “conflicted.” However, the playwright is very careful not to dilute her message with innuendo. “Am I making this too sexy?” a character asks in the middle of a family intervention, a scene where pregnancy is not presented as the most “natural” thing in the world but rather where hope and promise are replaced with blood and excrement. Revolt becomes a story about language as much as anything else, how we talk to each other and how these words shape our relationships.
There are constant prompts for revolution presented by bold statements on an AV projection upstage. This could have been woven more seamlessly into the performances of the extremely talented cast. There are some great actors here, under the exacting direction of Erica Whyman. The design is impressively stark, a few chairs, some buckets, cold white beams of light and occasional spills of bloodlike red powder, suggesting an underlying Sarah Kane influence.
There are no taboos out of bounds. In one scene the idea of marriage is reduced to a reduction in income tax. In another, the female body is presented as gross and “physical evidence of your regret.” Throughout all of this, the play somehow remains funny, leading to a provoking polyphonic climax. On first impression the piece seems disjointed. But these scenes are not isolated sketches. This is meticulously crafted drama and not only the best new work you’ll see at the fringe, but some of the best new writing you’ll find anywhere.
Yes, it may not have the beautiful simplicity and symmetry of Birch’s earlier Many Moons but that is not the point. There are important questions here and we will not be let off easily. Leaving the theatre, we wonder if our current understanding of feminism has left us trapped. Kindness, hope and good wishes aren’t enough anymore. Action is needed.
Revolt. She said. Revolt Again. is playing at the Traverse Theatre until the August 28.