Pussy Riot: Riot Days

It’s very rare that you go to ‘the theatre’ and feel as though you are witnessing a moment in history; with Riot Days, Pussy Riot successfully creates this feeling. The piece combines spoken word and performance art with a live punk gig and documentary with unquestionable impact. The piece was based around a book released by one of the members, Maria Alyokhina, last year by the same name. She is joined on stage by three other members to deliver the story of the lead up, and aftermath of their most famous protest in 2012 where they were arrested and eventually imprisoned.

There is as much joy within the rebellion as there is anger.

It is with no little amount of effort that Alyokhina has arrived at the Summerhall stage having driven over the Russian border in direct defiance of a travel ban against her. This only adds to the urgency and authenticity of what they present on stage. Along with her co-rioters their anger and passion is palpable and through the use of subtitled documentary footage also extremely clear and coherent. Much of the vocals on stage are more shouted half-poetry than any form of conventional singing. They effectively use call and response as well as moments of unison to emphasise particular riot calls. This is all done in Russian but can be followed overhead on the projections. This is where the performance may fall through if you are looking for a traditional punk rock gig, it would be very difficult to dance and jump around whilst simultaneously reading hard hitting political messages overhead. However, if it’s this political activism that you are there for then it delivers this with potency, the aggressive saxophone bass line adding to the driving message.

At the beginning of the performance the audience is asked to behave as ‘punk as they can’. At first this may seem more like an instruction linked to the music but by the end this seems more like a war cry. This is not a piece which dwells on how hard their lives are or pities the situation in Russian but instead presents a transgressive call to action, there is as much joy within the rebellion as there is anger. More importantly than that there is a lot of hope. A hope that this is the Russian revolution which will change things, and with their passion and some simple how to revolt steps it almost feels like they could be right.

Watching this as someone living in peace in the UK and unknowing of what it’s really like to live under the current Russian regime is an odd experience. Should you really be enjoying this art and this festival when there is such demand for revolution as Pussy Riot presents? However much of what they say feels applicable in a wider connotation, highlighting the power of saying no and not being afraid to cause a fuss if you think that what is going on around you is wrong. The group’s sweat, energy and words may find themselves staying in the minds of the audience for far longer than their allotted hour and a half.

Reviews by Gillian Bain

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Pussy Riot: Riot Days

★★★★★

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Latecomers welcome, doors 7:00pm, support 7:30pm, Pussy Riot 8:15pm.Pussy Riot have one of the most important voices of the last 10 years. Gaining global notoriety in 2012, three members, Maria Alyokhina, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich were imprisoned for 'hooliganism motivated by religious hatred' for their performance inside a Moscow cathedral. Riot Days merges punk, electronica, theatre, documentary footage and protest. Based on Maria Alyokhina's book, Riot Days (Penguin Books). Yury Muravitsky (Director). Alexander Cheparukhin (Producer). Maria Alyokhina (Actor, Singer). Kiryl Masheka (Actor, Singer, Text Editor). Nastya AWOTT (Actor, Singer, Saxophone). Maxim AWOTT (Keyboards, Programming, Drums).

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