Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again was written in response to the provocation that well behaved women seldom make history. Its short, sharp scenes, in which women challenge sexual language, refuse marriage proposals, demand time off from their employers, and forcefully redefine the boundaries between their bodies and the world outside, remind me of the rise of the ‘nasty woman’ in contemporary literature and culture: the woman who defies social conventions, who demands equal rights, who refuses to be silenced.
This is reflected in the harsh lighting, bold lettering, and bare stage of the Michael Pilch Studio, where clashing red costumes have the (serendipitous) side-effect of resembling prison uniforms. Particularly effective is the opening scene, which makes excellent use of shadows to reinforce its portrayal of power, as well as its quiet menace, as it criticises a masculine sexual language which makes love ‘to’ and not ‘with’, and questions whether the vagina can be the active agent instead. The intimate space exemplifies this effect, as does the way in which the actors frequently acknowledge, and sometimes directly address, the audience. This makes the performance intense, and often uncomfortable, but this is surely the point of the play, with its references to, and criticisms of, feminist ‘merch’ and jokes about rape.
Many of its characters have a manic edge to them, portrayed brilliantly by this production’s cast of four, ranging from a creepy cheeriness to a heart-wrenching brokenness. More than once, I was reminded of the common expression that ‘art should comfort the disturbed and disturb the comfortable’. The play builds up to a climactic sequence, as words overlap, contradictory images of contemporary feminism collide, and the lines between the characters and actors blur. The chaos segues into a monologue, superbly delivered so as to make it both quiet and loud, calm and manic, a culmination of the various strands of the play up to this point, which declares that ‘it turns out we stopped watching and checking and nurturing the thought to become action’. And that’s as close as Revolt, She Said, Revolt Again comes to a mission statement.
TheatreGoose’s production is clever, witty, and powerful. To say it is thought-provoking is an understatement: it feels more like an obsession. What is clear, in the production’s rage, and in its lament, is that it is time that badly behaved women made the future.