Tag: Janice Muller

Malthouse Theatre Presents REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN.

Tear down the wor(l)d

By Leeor Adar

Alice Birch’s Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. directed by Janice Muller is a perpetual play on words, and a play on what those words mean to us. It isn’t just a revolution within our society, but a collective ‘revolt’ at our own bodies, and at the male gaze for which women squirm under. Yes, it’s a raging, raging work. It probably needs to rage, because what Birch tells us is nothing new to a woman’s struggle within the constraints of her world, the sharp lines that fix her within it – whether that is her workplace, her lover’s place, her child’s place – or any place in which she exists.

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Birch’s text takes us to many dimensions of existence – at first it’s the constructed box that sits on the stage, vignettes of conversations that throw sex, marriage and work upon its head – women asking to be utterly present in the acts society inflicts upon them. Marg Horwell’s set design is effective here, the sound even strains within the ‘four’ walls created. Soon enough, this world revolts upon itself and a woman (Sophie Ross) climbs out of the four walls to really talk about the things we don’t talk about – about the damage women inflict upon our bodies, in a beautiful and hideous memorandum of all our physical evils – to be endlessly sexually available.

For all the seriousness of the work, the audience laughs with tears in their eyes at some scenes, and sometimes we flinched away – we couldn’t look upon what was before us. I sat behind male audience members who I confess I enjoyed watching too throughout the piece; in context, I admit I was morbidly fascinated at how they would react. Of course they laughed when it was appropriate, and sometimes when it was totally inappropriate, because on some level it was surely uncomfortable for male viewers to see a woman getting angry or opening her body up with Birch’s visceral words – but I can tell you that looking around the room at the women was an different story. Many moments of the play were a bitter reminder, unravelling us at the seams.

The cast is five-strong (Belinda McClory, Elizabeth Esguerra, Ming-Zhu Hii, Gareth Reeves, and Ross). Each actor delivered their parts with total abandonment and intensity – it is an absolutely demanding show to watch, but also to act. The words are hard, and they’re almost too funny and also too damn real. You know Birch is onto something good when you physically react to the words.

For all its power, the total breakdown of the world presented to us loses shape as characters throw costumes on, haphazardly run about, throw themselves on stage, shake, spit, shiver, deliver – it ceases to be a functional whole. Oddly enough, the work held its power until the final dimension and then disintegrated. Was it meant to show us how bad we really had it – apocalypse femme? I can’t say. But sometimes in an effort to rattle its audience, the hyper-modern piece loses us.

Did it change my outrage, or the message? No. Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. remains a daring exercise to deconstruct everything that shapes womanhood in a violent world.

Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. will be performed at the Malthouse Theatre until 9 July. Performance dates, times and bookings available here: http://malthousetheatre.com.au/whats-on/revolt-she-said-revolt-again

Image by Pia Johnson

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The Substation Presents THE TRIBE

A personal and beautiful story-telling experience

By Christine Young

The Tribe is perhaps what the world needs right now. At the very least, in a time of heightened Islamophobia, racism and bigoted politics, it’s what’s missing from public life: the voices and stories of Arab immigrant families.

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This reviewer jumped at the chance to attend the opening night of The Tribe which is based on Michael Mohammed Ahmad’s novel of the same name, and presented by The Substation theatre company and Urban Theatre Projects. The play is a series of monologues/memories told by an adult Bani but through the eyes of his child self at ages five, seven and eleven. It was adapted for the stage by author Ahmad and Janice Muller who also directed solo actor Hazem Shammas.

Bani belongs to the first generation of his big Lebanese family born in Australia with whom he lives on Caitlin Street in Lakemba. Lakemba is a suburb 15km south-west of Sydney’s CBD and well-known as a hub for Lebanese Muslim Australians. As Bani tells us, the Caitlin Street residents are overwhelmingly Muslim and living there carries a certain credibility. When the most rebellious kid in his class, Omar, finds out they live opposite each other, he decides they are best mates on the spot. Neither child knows anything about Omar being a Sunni Muslim and Bani being an Ahmadi Muslim which would have ruled out a friendship in Lebanon.

Bani’s stories from 1980s Lakemba centre on the family’s matriarch Taytar (grandmother). These stories also reach beyond Lakemba and back to a Lebanon that Bani has never known. Shammas renders beautiful the poignant and moving anecdotes from Bani’s childhood. Every time Bani utters ‘Taytar’, his voice changes and it’s said in a gentle tone of affection and respect.

Hazem Shammas is joined on stage by composer Oonagh Sherrard on cello which is aptly matched to the emotion and life of the storytelling. My seat was remarkably close to Sherrard which gave me a unique chance to watch the beauty and dexterity of cello-playing up close.

For the Melbourne season, The Substation in Newport has arranged for the play to be performed at homes in the area. The audience meets at The Substation and is taken, by foot, to the previously undisclosed location, and experiencing The Tribe is all the more special because it’s performed in the privacy and intimacy of a volunteer family’s backyard.

The Tribe was performed on March 30, 31 and April 1 2017 in Newport, Melbourne.