In anticipation of REVOLT. SHE SAID. REVOLT AGAIN., Soho Rep. asked playwright Alice Birch about art pieces that inspired her play. Alice came back to us with a formidable list of plays, photography, feminist essays, and poetry that have all been an influence on this piece of writing.
In a series we are calling “Recipes for REVOLT”, we will be delving a bit deeper into these art pieces to give you a sense of where this extraordinary play sprung.
“Sylvia Plath was one of the most dynamic and admired poets of the 20th century… Intensely autobiographical, Plath’s poems explore her own mental anguish, her troubled marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes, her unresolved conflicts with her parents, and her own vision of herself… Margaret Rees observed, ‘Whether Plath wrote about nature, or about the social restrictions on individuals, she stripped away the polite veneer. She let her writing express elemental forces and primeval fears. In doing so, she laid bare the contradictions that tore apart appearance and hinted at some of the tensions hovering just beneath the surface of the American way of life in the post war period.'” (Poetry Foundation)
by Sylvia Plath
You do not do, you do not doAny more, black shoeIn which I have lived like a footFor thirty years, poor and white,Barely daring to breathe or Achoo.Daddy, I have had to kill you.You died before I had time——Marble-heavy, a bag full of God,Ghastly statue with one gray toeBig as a Frisco sealAnd a head in the freakish AtlanticWhere it pours bean green over blueIn the waters off beautiful Nauset.I used to pray to recover you.Ach, du.In the German tongue, in the Polish townScraped flat by the rollerOf wars, wars, wars.But the name of the town is common.My Polack friendSays there are a dozen or two.So I never could tell where youPut your foot, your root,I never could talk to you.The tongue stuck in my jaw.It stuck in a barb wire snare.Ich, ich, ich, ich,I could hardly speak.I thought every German was you.And the language obsceneAn engine, an engineChuffing me off like a Jew.A Jew to Dachau, Auschwitz, Belsen.I began to talk like a Jew.I think I may well be a Jew.The snows of the Tyrol, the clear beer of ViennaAre not very pure or true.With my gipsy ancestress and my weird luckAnd my Taroc pack and my Taroc packI may be a bit of a Jew.I have always been scared of you,With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.And your neat mustacheAnd your Aryan eye, bright blue.Panzer-man, panzer-man, O You——Not God but a swastikaSo black no sky could squeak through.Every woman adores a Fascist,The boot in the face, the bruteBrute heart of a brute like you.You stand at the blackboard, daddy,In the picture I have of you,A cleft in your chin instead of your footBut no less a devil for that, no notAny less the black man whoBit my pretty red heart in two.I was ten when they buried you.At twenty I tried to dieAnd get back, back, back to you.I thought even the bones would do.But they pulled me out of the sack,And they stuck me together with glue.And then I knew what to do.I made a model of you,A man in black with a Meinkampf lookAnd a love of the rack and the screw.And I said I do, I do.So daddy, I’m finally through.The black telephone’s off at the root,The voices just can’t worm through.If I’ve killed one man, I’ve killed two——The vampire who said he was youAnd drank my blood for a year,Seven years, if you want to know.Daddy, you can lie back now.There’s a stake in your fat black heartAnd the villagers never liked you.They are dancing and stamping on you.They always knew it was you.Daddy, daddy, you bastard, I’m through.