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Nov 23

Inside Pussy Riot – Theatre Review by Paul Vates

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The Saatchi Gallery, London

“a sugary, gluten-free version of the real thing.”

Photo Credit – Kenny Mathieson, Design – Zoe Koperski

Director Christa Harris is quoted in the programme thus: ‘Inside Pussy Riot is what theatre in 2017 is all about; the chance to create work, which will send ripples through society, provoke an audience to action and consequently work towards change.’

 

For those who don’t know – or can’t quite recall – Pussy Riot made international headlines in February 2012 when five of their members staged a performance inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Security stopped them after 40 seconds, but the women escaped. Then on March 3rd three members were arrested, two were jailed in a penal colony under Hooliganism laws. The women said their protest was directed at the Orthodox Church leaders’ support for Vladimir Putin during his election campaign. They were finally released two years later.

 

Photo Credit – Kenny Mathieson, Design – Zoe Koperski

In collaboration with Les Enfants Terribles and produced by Bird & Carrot, Inside Pussy Riot is an immersive, theatrical, punk event, lasting 60 minutes. We are a small group of a dozen or so and start by filling out some forms, then we are led through a variety of locations and situations, meeting bizarre and unlikeable characters along the way. Basically, we are arrested, tried and imprisoned in a remarkably ridiculous short time. The process matches what the two Rioters went through.

 

Pic

Photo Credit – Kenny Mathieson, Design – Zoe Koperski

The whole piece doesn’t quite know where to place itself – silly or serious. It lands somewhere in the middle. I believe we’re supposed to leave with a new perspective on freedom, justice, prisons, war, government, abuse, politics, equality, establishment – all the topics Pussy Riot rages against. We should be leaving angry and ready to storm parliament. Instead, I left feeling angry and frustrated at missed opportunities, misguided threats and unfulfilled promises. I found the comic elements forced and the real peril (in the very few times it was there) not followed through with any true drama or belief. The all-female cast has an 18-strong ensemble and they throw themselves into it with gusto, but somehow hold back from committing to the scenarios so as not to cause offence.

 

 

The audience that will visit this spectacle at the glorious Saatchi Gallery, just off Sloane Square, will not leave ready to do battle to improve the lot of the poor and correct the injustices of society, then will laugh at the silliness they were willing to join in with and nod sagely at the ‘tragedies’ that befell them – then go for a swift macchiato before jumping into their gas-guzzling vehicle in order to be home before the babysitter loses control, all the while planning when the revolution will occur, checking their diaries: ‘How about April? The weather’s nicer then. Oh, when’s Easter? Maybe not. It may have to wait until July, because there’s that weekend break we promised ourselves in Venice, plus Johnnie’s wedding in May. So, the end of July, it is. Once the exam season is out of the way…’

 

What I mean by this surreal ramble is that the audience the show will attract in SW3 is probably not the best social strata that will gain the most from it. This show needs to be in working-class areas of the UK where there is a feeling of real hardship on a daily basis.

 

Inside Pussy Riot is Pussy Riot Lite, a sugary, gluten-free version of the real thing. Nadya Tolokonnikova survived the Russian State’s prison conditions and has tried to tell her story. I think she has been let down by a production that simply isn’t as brave and riotous as it claims to be. The ripples the director hoped to send out are hardly noticeable and if this is what theatre is about in 2017, I hadn’t realised it was all so polite and nice. What was intended to be a roar, instead becomes a contented purr of smug satisfaction – ‘Aren’t we being rebellious?!’

 

 

Venue:                     Saatchi Gallery, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY.

 

Performances:         Daily from 11.15am – up to December 24th 2017.

Check itinerary on website.

 

Tickets:                    www.seetickets.com and www.insidepussyriot.com

Prices start at £21.50.

 

Length:                     60 minutes. You may be on standing throughout.

 

Twitter:                     @LesEnfantsTerr, @pussyrrriot, @tolokno, #insidepussyriot

 

Notes:                      Ages 14+ at parental discretion. Contains nudity.

 

Photography:           Kenny Mathieson and Zoe Koperski.