Humorous. Chaotic. Intense. Just a few of the words that came to mind in the first five minutes of Alice Birch’s play Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again, in Porters’ pub theatre The Other Room. Directed by Nerida Bradley and featuring an electric cast, this raw and immersive play features increasingly abstract portrayals of radical modern womanhood, each playing with form and language in a new way.
This includes a woman flipping the switch on the language of sex, another rejecting the ideals of a marriage and becoming property, another masturbating in a supermarket, two more cutting out their tongues. Although many laughs are to be had whilst watching the play, for every moment of comedy, there is an equally tragic dark turn: a perfect balance between traumatic humour and necessary urgency.
With a cast of only five people, Bradley’s direction gives each performer a chance to shine. Danielle Fahiya and Benjamin McCann hilariously open the play with an energetic and horny vignette, depicting sexuality and early relationship dialogue. The audience is invited to join in on the fun, prompted by Joni Ayton-Kent – whose acting credits include Cheery on BBC America’s The Watch, and who was a real standout. The raw emotion and body language while pleading for her mother to notice her made the room hold their breath.
Stage manager Philippa Mannion only delivers a small amount of lines while jumping between scene switches and musical numbers, but she was a vital and comedic add to the play: I found my eyes travelling towards her after certain takes to be entertained by her reaction. And one impactful line by Catriona James, in a scene where she performs so effortlessly, stuck with me: “You cannot rape me, because I choose it.”
The cast utilises the entire space of the small room and there is nowhere to hide – racks of costumes, unused set pieces, and lighting are all left exposed, which only elevates the play’s intense vulnerability. We see the actors change their outfits between scenes, moving props and chairs to set the stage for the next experimental scene.
Any criticism towards this play lies entirely in the text, offering no answers for the many disturbing questions and baffling moments it raises; sometimes it feels as though Birch’s thoughts have been lost in translation. However, her point comes through, and hard. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is not a political threat, rather a radical act of public mourning for a society that’s still not solicitous towards women.
I cannot speak on behalf of women but this haunting piece is sure to resonate with everyone. I did not leave the theatre feeling guilty about my male presence, but I did leave having enjoyed brilliant acting, skilful direction, innovative use of lighting and space and questioning my role within a patriarchal society.
The Other Room, Porters, Cardiff, Thurs 19 May
On until 29 May. Tickets: £5-£12. Info: here
words JOHN EVANS
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