Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. at the Sydney Fringe Festival
“This play should not be well behaved.”
How will you break out of the box people have tried to confine you to? How will you talk about what's making you angry? How will you fight back?
REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN. is an assault on the senses, as playwright Alice Birch morphs language and breaks boundaries to create a wild play about women at the end of their tether. It examines how we love fight kiss fuck cry talk question eat dance scream and simply keep going.
Carly spoke with performer Akala Newman about why this is a show everyone needs to see in 2019 and why there's nothing left to do but be angry. Read the full interview below:
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again aims to challenge the way that we think about the world, about each other and, as a strong piece of feminist writing, about men. What do you think audiences will be most surprised by through this show and why is it a show that everyone needs to see and listen to in 2019?
5 reasons why I think everyone needs to see it and to understand:
The diversity of the cast and the female/ non- binary experience.
We were taught that we should “work with men” but it seems whilst we have been working “with” our voices have been drowned out.
Change won’t happen unless we take action. NOW.
It’s okay to be angry. It’s okay to look after you. It’s okay to smash up a watermelon sometimes.
The world is awful. Don’t be complacent. Do something.
With unassigned dialogue throughout some of the play and little in the way of character back-stories provided by the writer, what has the rehearsal process been like for you and your cast-mates? What are the challenges with a text like this? What makes it extra exciting?
This play is one of the most challenging works I’ve ever had the privilege of being a part of. There is something new to discover in Birch’s writing every time I read it. For my cast mates and I it has been tough to figure out when my “character” is speaking and when “I” am speaking and Alice is very clear on where this line is, but she is magical in the way that she writes as she tricks you into eventually completely being yourself as the actor and human onstage and therefore reminding the audience that the characters are just actors. And these actors are human. We experience this pain to. We are not just flesh props; we have experienced this rage, wether personally or empathetically. Her words are completely relevant to every body, and finding the fine line between yourself and the character has been a difficult process. But also a cathartic one, it’s not everyday you get to release all this pent up emotion you didn’t even know you’ve been experiencing for most of your life.
In terms of finding our characters back stories, it has also been a challenge, we are constantly swapping between characters, which for the audience will be exhausting, but I think that’s how she wants them to feel, and how she also wants us as the actors to feel by the end. Just completely drained, which reflects how women feel in society today. But when you feel drained there is only one way to go, and that’s up, so I think there is a positive in this challenge that makes it exciting, we are experiencing so many emotions in order to find peace within ourselves and emit change in society eventually. Someone’s got to swing the pendulum until it comes to a stop, and I think it is our job to swing it high.
Playwright Alice Birch has said of this play that “it should not be well behaved!” Firstly, what can we as an audience expect from the show? And secondly, do you feel that with a cast and crew of female or non-gender binary artists exclusively this production has something new to say about the treatment of women in today’s world?
One line that I say constantly throughout this play is “I don’t understand”. These three words encapsulate everything I feel about the world at the moment and the treatment of women today. This play was originally published three years ago, and if that’s how Alice Birch was feeling then it pains me that nothing really has progressed. Where has the thought gone for change and equality? Alice says that the “thought hasn’t been enough”, meaning all our attempts to make change, through kindness and hope hasn’t been the thing. So what’s the next step? We get angry. We’ve seen these waves of feminism come and go and the tides of power pulling us back as soon as we reach the freedom of the shoreline. It’s time we didn’t just hit the sand and make a splash, it’s time we created a Tsunami and dismantle the powerhouse that ceases to take our voice and our rights. The audience should expect to get drenched with rage. Yes, this show is not well behaved. It’s more or less “how to revolutionise the world” or how to create the Tsunami of rebellion and what to do after it. Every body should see this play, because it’s relevant for us today and it is not just a women’s fight but also everyone’s fight.
The play highlights something new about women, but something that women and non-binary people have always had inside of us; that we are not afraid, and we are unapologetic. Our bodies are “un-attackable, unprotected, unconquerable and unclaimed”. Given the recent debates to liberalize or to restrict access to legal abortion services, it is just another example of how women / non- binary people are treated today as if we don’t have the right to our own body or the right to make our own choice. This play wants to revolutionise the way women/ non- gender binary people are being treated in society by reforming the language, the world, the workspace, the body and reproduction. The audience will dive into electric scenes that will be relatable to everybody in the audience some way or another.
Birch’s work calls for only a fine line between the character and the actor to be drawn. With this in mind, how much of your own backgrounds and experiences are each of the actors drawing on to inform their characterisation? With each cast member contributing to a wonderfully diverse cast, what consideration has been given to the varied experience of being a woman today and how has that been approached through the show?
Particularly towards the end of the performance is when you see the cast shed their characterisation and become our true selves in a way. It’s a moment when we forget who we are, and where we are, and we just speak from our hearts. It’s the most genuine experience I’ve ever had. Even though the lines we speak aren’t ours, they have the capacity to be. Birch’s work is honest and tempting. As an Indigenous woman I feel as if my background plays a huge part in the way I perform. I’m not just performing this for myself but I’m performing it for my ancestors who fought for their rights and the strong matriarchs who sacrificed their lives and persevered, who’s blood runs in my veins. I want to do them proud and I want every Indigenous person and person of colour in the audience to know that their experiences are just as valid as the rest. And I believe my cast members feel the same way. We are telling this story from diverse perspectives drawing from our own experiences to tackle our characters and perform in a way that is rich with honesty and self-representation. Rosie has done a commendable job in ensuring that feminism isn’t just a “white heterosexual thing”. That each cast member comes from different backgrounds and experiences that must be taken into account when we talk about feminism and that Intersectionality and diversity must always be at the forefront of all we do to ensure equality.
You are a multi-disciplinary artist working on plays and songs that you’re writing, and performing as well. What inspires you to create and what are the topics or themes, looking at your past work and plans for the future, that you feel are most important to you at the moment?
For me I’ve always loved dancing, singing and acting. It just feels right to be expressing yourself in different art forms. My community and culture always taught me that story telling is in your DNA, and you create and tell the stories you want for yourself. Some people will love it and some people will hate it, but you don’t make it for them, you make it for yourself and the future generations. It becomes a healing process as well, a way of navigating yourself as a woman in a postcolonial world. I’m inspired not only by my people, but by the amazing women and creative people around me who have helped me grow. When words fail, dance, art, music and performance are always their and its works like this play that evoke change. The most important thing for me at the moment is using my music or my writing as a tool for transformation, to start a discussion and to keep the fire burning in order to create a sense of autonomy and self- representation.
RAPID FIRE QUESTIONS:
Favourite production you have ever seen?
I remember when I was around 12 I completely attached myself to Billy Elliot the musical when it came to Sydney. I was so inspired by the thought of living by your own narrative and fighting for your rights and your passion to create change as a young person.
You’re getting on a plane tomorrow and you can go anywhere in the world, where do you go?
Right this second I want to be in Italy sipping wine and eating olives please.
Dream role to perform?
Oh gosh, don’t do this to me! There’s too many. Right now I’m thinking of Cinderella from Into the woods. I think that’s just my 14-year-old nostalgia talking. She was a bad ass. Or I would love to have been in Winyanboga Yurringa at the Belvoir.
Plays or musicals?
Depends what mood I’m in to be honest, but I’ll choose a play first… unless Billy Elliot is on.
A hobby you have beyond the theatre?
Singing / songwriting and dancing.
What’s next for you after this show?
Take a breath! - I’m also releasing my first single after this show in mid September and then I will finish my Bachelors degree and move onto my honors research in Indigenous performance.
Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. opens at the Emerging Artists Sharehouse, Erskineville Town Hall, on September 10 as part of the Sydney Fringe Festival. You can get your tickets here.