“It’s an incredibly exciting script to get as an actor,” performer Gareth Reeves says. “There are no character names or anything. It’s just words, and you have to decide as a company who says which words in the script and how many people you are going to have in your play to say those words. [Birch] gives you a bunch of rules on the first page, like ‘this play, at no times should it be well-behaved’, ‘there should be one woman in every scene’ and ‘if any woman is asked to get naked, the man should have to do the same’. It really leaves everything up to us to decide how we want to use it, what we want to say with it and how to honour her ideas as well.”
Reeves is the only male to perform in the play, representing several roles and elements within a realm of interconnected vignettes. Doused with a rich coating of surreal black humour, however, the play houses some disturbingly uncomfortable truths about gender and social convention – with the ferocity of its content taking an appropriately dark and dramatic turn.
“I remember reading somewhere – it was a great quote – that the language around sex was obviously written by men,” Reeves says. “If women had written that language, it wouldn’t have been called ‘penetration’, it would have been called ‘enveloping’, or something. A lot of the language that we have around sex is really awful, when you break it down. We can laugh at it, but boy – ‘I wanna fuck the shit out of you’ is not a nice thing to say, really.”
Describing Birch as “at the forefront of a new wave of writing”, Reeves says writers like her dissect the true power of language and the effects negligence and thoughtlessness can have.
“At the end of the day, it’s impossible not to be a feminist – as I understand it – if you have any kind of empathy or basic fucking moral fortitude,” Reeves says. “Feminist to me just means someone who doesn’t want women treated like shit, and I think that’s something that we can all agree on. However, the word ‘language’ is tied up in so many things, and there are people with this phrase on all sides of that argument, about what a feminist should be, what it means, how you should behave and what you should be doing. There are people who don’t want a bar of it, they don’t want to go near it, and young women who are scared to engage with the idea, because it sounds militant or prescriptive.”
In an ever-evolving world beginning to reexamine tradition, prejudice, sexuality, identity and gender, Reeves knows that what makes Revolt so exhilarating is that it fronts up to that challenge and delves head-first into the complications.
“On my good days, I think that what I do matters, and if there is one person out there that goes away from my work and something kind of shifts and they keep thinking about it, then that’s worthwhile,” he says. “I think with this play, though, it’s full of ‘depth charges’. From my good friends that have come to see it, those depth charges are still going off. People want to come and see it again.”