‘Terrible rage.’ It starts as a question; rhetorical, perhaps. ‘Terrible rage.’ It grows into a statement of fact, an undeniable proof. ‘Terrible rage. Terrible rage. Terrible rage.’ Eventually – in a slow but frightening crescendo, followed by an equally slow but heart-wrenchingly pathetic decrescendo – the monologue (towards the end of the play) made solely of repetitions of this phrase takes on an awesome force, somewhere between manifesto and lament. A cri de coeur for a world on fire, it seems to power the entire work.
Caryl Churchill’s 2016 play, Escaped Alone, finally receives its Australian première at Red Stitch, and it is as succinct and devastating a piece as we are likely to see all year. Those interim years since the play’s arrival in the United Kingdom have only sharpened its edges.
Churchill is arguably the world’s greatest living female playwright; indeed, her closest rivals – one could, for example, make a case for US playwright Annie Baker – owe such a debt to Churchill that they seem like acolytes. Cloud Nine  and Top Girls  may have cemented her reputation as an anti-capitalist, feminist firebrand, but the constant revivals of those works suggest that her influence is unlikely to diminish. In the years since Top Girls, Churchill has expanded her reach and her interests, so that her works must surely rank among the greatest of the modern era.