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Pussy Riot: Riot Days

Summerhall
Five stars

The pink balaclava Maria Alyokhina wears at the start of this ferocious free adaptation of the Russian activist and artist’s urgent memoir that has given this show its title has become a potent totem of resistance that has changed the face of anti-authoritarian activism, possibly forever. This followed Alyokhina’s arrest and imprisonment in 2012 for ‘banal hooiganism’ alongside two of her comrades following an anti-Putin ‘punk prayer’ in a Moscow orthodox church.

Six years on, Pussy Riot continue to invade public consciousness, as they did in the recent World Cup final held in Moscow when members of the collective ran onto the pitch. They continue to fight the power with this fifty-minute music-theatre assault, which puts Alyokhina at the centre of a high-octane collage of electronica, martial drumming and skronky sax. This provides the backdrop to a barrage of archive footage, projected situationist style slogans and righteous declaiming as the onstage quartet tell Alyokhina and Pussy Riot’s story, from protest to prison and her eventual release after twenty months.

Performed in Russian with English subtitles, and knitted together by Russian theatre director Yury Muravitsky, Riot Days is no pose. Alyokhina defied a travel ban to be in Edinburgh, and remains in the frontline of a movement that has captured the radical imagination. The quartet Alyokhina leads onstage are as well-drilled in the show’s agit-prop execution in a way that probably hasn’t been seen since post-industrial 1980s auteurs Test Dept took a similar stance.   

At one point Alyokhina and co sport hoodies and shades, squaring up for something resembling a rap battle as the rhythm pounds behind them. ‘Anybody can be Pussy Riot’ a caption declares on the screen to cheers of solidarity responding to the slogan’s call to arms. Now is probably as good a time as any. The revolution starts here.

The Herald, August 14th 2018

ends



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