"Jeez, you guys. Man up and grow a pair will you! Stop acting like a bunch of girls ..."

Ever heard those words before? Said them yourself? Had them directed at you? In her play Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. British playwright Alice Birch takes the words out of our mouths and considers how language helps prop up the not-so-comfortable status quo.

It's an unabashedly feminist work which delivers a strong message: Words are powerful tools in keeping us, especially women, in our places.

It was partly inspired by historian Laurel Thatcher Ulrich's slogan and book title Well-behaved women seldom make history.


A paper banner with those words emblazoned across it hangs in Silo Theatre's Mt Eden rehearsal room. The company, now turning 20, is the first in Australasia to take on Birch's play; Melbourne's Malthouse will stage it later this year.

Announcing Silo's 2017 programme, its artistic director, Sophie Roberts, spoke of the company's interest in theatre which explores gender politics and isn't well-behaved or quiet about it.

Roberts, a champion of explicitly feminist work, says Silo wants to consider how storytelling and the stage can be used to address an imbalance in female representation.

For Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again. Silo's employed a nearly all-female team behind the scenes and on stage, handing the director's chair to Virginia Frankovich, and gone back to the Basement, the company's original home, as part of the Auckland Fringe Festival.

When lack of money meant the Auckland Fringe was hanging in the balance, Silo was one of the biggest companies to back it by signing up to be part of the three-week festival.

Revolt plays with theatrical conventions; it's a series of sketches (theatrical types might say provocations) about sex, marriage and family, body image and work which overlap and see performers pushed to stay in character.

It's the first-time Frankovich has directed a main-bill production and she draws upon her "eclectic theatrical background of experimental and outspoken work"; that's seen her create and direct Car where audiences, just six at a time, were driven around downtown Auckland to watch performances at different places.

It attracted the attention of Low Kee Hong, head of Artistic Development for Performing Arts at the mega West Kowloon Cultural District in Hong Kong, who wanted to see how emerging theatre-makers in NZ attract audiences who like experimentation with their entertainment.

A directing intern with Silo last year, Frankovich says watching the likes of Roberts and Rachel House work has taught her much and she's ready to take the next step. She's also worked on feminist theatre before, notably performer Julia Croft's If There's Not Dancing at the Revolution, I'm Not Coming.

"With Revolt, it really feels like it's questioning what it to be a woman right now at a time when things could very easily change for the worse. It's like a call to action for the audience."

When Frankovich read the script, it reminded her of a much-older radical feminist text, Valerie Solanas' 1967 SCUM Manifesto. It became one of her favourite summer reads as she planned the production, but she's also relied on input from a strong cast: Sophie Henderson (Fantail), Michelle Ny (The Rehearsal), Amanda Tito (Step Dave) and Fasitua Amosa (Dirty Laundry).

Virginia Frankovich directs Amanda Tito (left), Michelle Ny and Sophie Henderson in Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
Virginia Frankovich directs Amanda Tito (left), Michelle Ny and Sophie Henderson in Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.

For Henderson, who's spent time in Australia script-writing for the mini-series The Beautiful Lie, the play was a call to action.

The mother of an eight-month-old daughter, she was ready to ease back into work but - the irony isn't lost on her - admits she knew it would be a logistical struggle.

Rehearsals have been organised around her baby-feeding schedule; husband and film-maker Curtis Vowell has taken time off to be a full-time parent and bring the baby in for her lunch.

"I find myself thinking how lucky I am to have a partner who's being a stay-at-home-dad but really why should I feel lucky?

"Surely, this should just be the way it is? It makes me angry because we're working hard not to fall into traditional gender roles but sometimes it would just be so much easier to do so.

"I caught myself giving all her toys male names and I've really noticed how much people talk about little girls in terms of their appearance. I've always called myself a feminist but, for me, doing this play feels like I'm taking action."

What: Auckland Fringe Festival - Revolt. She Said. Revolt Again.
Where & when: Basement Theatre, until March 11