"Revolutionise the world". "Do not marry". "Galvanise". "Women for sale!" Aided by a fantastically droll projection across the back of the amply-sized Traverse auditorium, laughs abound in Alice Birch's subversive, sardonic dissection of modern patriarchy and autonomy in a world of constant societal pressures. This is
A defiant battle-cry for the modern feminist
From the outset, the female body is on the agenda: whether exploring sexual pleasure, self-exposure, self-harm, or the weary bones of career women who simply want more sleep. Birch's all-encompassing script darts effortlessly between naturalistic vignettes in workplaces, bedrooms, and supermarket store rooms, tearing through expectations of what a woman should or shouldn't be.
Here, a serious political discussion over a cheese course turns into a hugely entertaining back-and-forth of active and passive sexual desire – who is doing what to whom? Can we divorce gender roles from our concept of commitment and marriage? Why would anyone expose themselves in the public place or forum? What is acceptable behaviour, and should anyone care?
Under Erica Whyman's stark, minimal direction, Revolt smartly deconstructs the nature of ownership, victimhood, and attitudes towards sexual assault. Everything in sight, from the mismatched chairs and strips of light to the detached treatment of onstage violence, screams a disconnect between performance and reality, between private thought and public discourse.
These are grand themes, but ones handled deftly by a furiously capable cast, as Birch's incisive social commentary propels the RSC's programming into the 21st century. Emmanuella Cole shines in the opening scene's 'dirty talk', paving the way for explosive, triumphant laughter throughout the course of the play. Beth Park also gives an admirable performance as the reluctant girlfriend, fully capturing the complexity and contradiction of human wants and needs, even when comparing the institution of marriage to a terrorist plot.
Meanwhile, Emma Fielding shifts effortlessly between cruelty and kindness, passion and indifference, whether advocating chocolate for spiritual fulfilment or rejecting a daughter's reconciliation. Of secondary importance is Robert Boulter, aptly playing a battered male ego in the face of his colleagues' empowerment.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again is a defiant battle-cry for the modern feminist, throwing off the baggage society loads onto its members as workers, as consumers, and as women expected to play a particular role. Luckily, these women are more than capable of playing their own.