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Inside Pussy Riot at Saatchi Gallery London – Review

Inside Pussy Riot - Saatchi GalleryInside Pussy Riot at the Saatchi Gallery is a politically important and psychologically astute theatre show with a mission to rouse its audience to hope and empowerment in this difficult time for liberalism as Putin, Trump and Brexit are shaping statehood. That the message communicated from the setting of a totalitarian state prison is one of hope and the significance of the individual in resistance after a staged descent and exploration of the menace and surrealism of the Russian prison system is a tribute to the handling of this material by all those concerned with putting on this co-production by Birds & Carrot, Les Enfants Terribles and Nadya Tolokonnikova.

Tolokonnikova was a member of Pussy Riot, the female band who performed for forty seconds a punk song protesting about the leaders of the Orthodox Church leaders’ supporting President Putin from the inside of Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. As a consequence, Tolokonnikova, along with Maria Alyokhina, was sentenced to two years imprisonment in a penal colony to an international outcry.

What is channeled in this production at the Saatchi Gallery is Tolokonnikova’s experience after she was arrested. This is what you too as an audience in Chelsea with your expectations and confidence, at first, that you are all only
pretending, will experience. The bad news for President Putin is that he’s not going to like this show any better than he did Pussy Riot’s original protest.

If you think being a rebel, being brave, being an empathetic individual is at the core of your personality, this is an opportunity to find out whether you would retain those characteristics under the compressed pressure of a repressive system, now or in history. There is no gore, no on-set physical violence performed in sight but there is the constant sense this is dangerous theatre and anything could happen. After all the audience changes every time.

The acuity with which this show, written by Oliver Lansley with Tolokonnikova, shifts its audience from being relaxed attendees at a sophisticated art gallery to daunting self and societal awareness is remarkable.

The pacing by the director, Christa Harris, is excellent, playing with your time on occasions as if it’s a character and there is tonality of tone too, with sufficient light in the darkness. In particular, the appealing sentencing scene with a ridiculous judge is played so that it is farcical.

Surrealism is employed to ridicule, there is a sense of circus at times. Nevertheless, you may need to be prepared to confront your own fears as you are turned into a prisoner. To feel alone though you are in the room with other people you love. Because an effective totalitarian state knows isolation is a tool.

Pussy Riot FilmThe cast is all female and they swop roles about between them so it’s impossible to name individual actors except for Alice Ivor, who on press night very affectingly played a part disturbing as a moment of transformation. The constant undertow of unpredictable menace and danger described by the actors being prison guards is a vital element in the success of this production. The workroom is unforgettable. Having all those in power in this justice system as women works.

The cast in the show on opening night was disconcertingly all white. One of the causes you are offered to adopt as your own personal mission statement at the beginning of the show is about racial equality and every aspect of this show has been carefully thought about. Perhaps the intended message of this is we have entered the repressive world of a totalitarian state where everyone must be the same, with all the implications of that.

Inside Pussy Riot is exceptional and highly intelligent, performed on repeat with participants experiencing it in small groups of twenty. The designer, Zoe Koperski, has done a fantastic job evoking feeling and mood with her use of the corridors and allotted spaces, usually confined spaces, within the large gallery.

Running at about an hour you may well emerge into the Christmas lights of prosperous Chelsea moved and determined to contribute more, to make a difference. Perhaps you will be different.

Go. Be disconcerted.

5 Star Rating

Review by Marian Kennedy

Here’s the story of a group of modern day, post-punk feminist art collective who stuck two fingers up at the system and suffered the consequences.

Marking the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, pull on the balaclava and stand up for what you believe in. Rock the establishment, stand in the dock as Pussy Riot and live the realities of imprisonment for the freedom of speech we take for granted. Would you sacrifice everything for the sake of a punk prayer for a liberal world?

From Les Enfants Terribles, the creators of Olivier nominated immersive smash hit Alice’s Adventures Underground to coincide with the Saatchi Gallery’s Art Riot exhibition, with Inside Pussy Riot comes the telling of a story that needs to be experienced to be understood. Join the revolution. We are all Pussy Riot.

PLEASE ARRIVE NO LESS THAN 15 MINS BEFORE YOUR TICKETED TIME
Age guidance : 14+ at parental discretion (contains nudity and themes relating to imprisonment and human rights abuse)

Inside Pussy Riot
Saatchi Gallery
King’s Road, London
Booking to 24th December 2017

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