Christina Riley reviews a feminist and topical production from Mermaids: Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

 

As part of the On The Rocks festival, Mermaids staged their rendition of Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Director Rowan Wishart and her crew opened up the Barron Theatre, creating an intimate space which was shared by both cast and audience. Rowan’s staging of the ‘unashamedly ugly’ play was clever in its use of aesthetics; strings of petals hung from the ceiling and the walls were covered in clingfilm, making the room look pink and shiny, thus encompassing the expectations of beauty within society. While at first this was a nice setting to be in, as the dark stories unfolded and restrictions fought against, the room gradually felt more and more constricting, trapping its audience in the same bonds that Molly Williams adorned. Again, the use of plastic to mould the body into something perfect was painfully real and the art behind it was beautifully ugly, encapsulating perfectly our fat-shaming and body conscious society. Wardrobe changes on set clearly depicted getting ready as a performance in itself, and the severing of lipstick (a symbol of oppression) as a rejection to conform to this. The recurring motif of petals was used as vomit to express the repulsive attitudes we have concerning vanity and therefore, the play was exceptional in executing its aims of forcing its audience to confront how we view ourselves and each other.

 

The cast carried out a series of diverse roles, all played to a high standard. A notable performance however was given by AJ Brennan and Sarah Chamberlain whose juxtaposing characters reversed the generalised gender roles within the sexual context. Brennan’s portrayal of a very conflicted character served to effectively show the conflict between male dominance and emasculation within a realm of female power. While his character was fighting against female supremacy, his comical performance rivalled Chamberlain’s conviction, ensuring that his male character was not lost among the predominantly female cast.

 

Amidst the staged chaos, the calibre of acting was excellent. Overpowering the senses, the climax of the play culminated in a deafeningly high-pitched whistle echoing the effects of a bomb. Revolution was then introduced, suggesting a resolution to the war on gender we are already participating in. Williams, a stand out performer, stood with fists clenched. Her final character was the physical strength behind the revolution, epitomising the power she as an actor gave to the play, offering a powerful and dominating performance in every role she assumed.

 

While the interactive quality of the play added to its charm, this hindered it slightly as audience members were able to see the cast only if they happened to be in the right spot. For some scenes this worked well, however in others, viewing was somewhat restricted to the backs of heads. That being said, Emily Muller, Molly Williams and Haley Wilson’s scene worked well in that they isolated each other, as well as some audience members, from their performance. This resonated well, conveying the loneliness and trauma of domestic and sexual violence. Isolating the audience from their performances incited a need to become a part of it, to try and share in their pain and comfort them in their sorrow. In this way, the cast and crew put on a commendable performance which truly inspired a solidarity with its victims and thus a desire for change.

 

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. was received well by both male and female viewers alike, the comical yet disturbing play encouraging the audience’s participation not only through their placement on set, but in spirit. Staging the provocative play was a bold choice, and one that paid off as the results created by Wishart and her team were breathtaking.

 

STARS: * * * *

Christina Riley