By Alice Birch. Directed by Sloan Thompson. A Department of Theatre and Film at UBC production. At the Frederic Wood Theatre on Thursday, March 12. No remaining performances
What is it like for a woman living in a capitalist patriarchy? In the experimental work Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again., playwright Alice Birch creates various scenarios in which women confront the imbalances in their lives and challenge the status quo with their need for autonomy. With a progression that becomes increasingly radical in form and content over four acts and 13 vignettes, the play reaches a crescendo of revolution, rising up against systemic inequity.
The play begins with a dialogue between a man and woman (David Volpov and Ava Maria Safai) over sexual primacy, exploring the inversion of expectations as she takes control of his seduction.
Next, another couple (Pamela Carolina Martinez and Aidan LeBlanc) meditate on the concept of marriage after a botched proposal. In other segments, a woman and her employer (Shannon Poole and Drew Ogle) joust over work obligations; a shopper (Hana Cripton-Inglis) strips naked in a supermarket aisle after a sexual assault; and a woman and her daughter (Laura Grace Reynolds and Holly Collis Handford) accost the woman’s mother (Charmaine Sibanda) about her absence in their lives.
Although these are stand-alone stories, Birch’s play is a bricolage of related themes that link said narratives together around the notion of misunderstanding. In an early vignette, both man and woman misinterpret the other’s essence, as the former concocts a rigid fantasy of her and the latter skims his mere persona, neither fully representative of who they are.
Likewise, fundamental differences in the perception of social order distress those in later plots, from the value of marriage to the negotiation of workplace well-being. In many of these segments, capitalist tendencies are conflated with stability, which enforces repression, as in the case of the violated shopper, whose presence in protest is gauged only so far as her inconvenience to other consumers.
Director Sloan Thompson teases out the systemic quality of these encounters through the contributions of scenic designer Emily Dotson and costume designer Sherry Yang. Dotson’s imposing, cubelike structures are grey, nondescript, institutional—situated upstage, they resemble a metropolis, representative of the unaffectionate world such events take place in. Similarly, Yang’s costumes, composed of grey undergarments and streetwear, signal the masses from which these singular stories come. Lighting designer Jacob Wan supplements the largely monochromatic setup with expressive mood lighting at crucial points.
While it's not flawlessly executed, as transitions between stories appear more laboured than necessary, Thompson by and large delivers a staging of Birch’s bare-knuckle piece with an attentiveness to its import, steering actors into a deliberate discomfort that connotes an abrasive reality. By its penultimate act, it is clear that Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. is not a euphonic integration of ideals, but the cacophonous stirring emblematic of vital social movements.