Inside Pussy Riot, Saatchi Gallery

A thoughtful, warm,political,funny and terrifying piece that explores the concept of freedom.

My friend and I were late to this. I am obviously mortified so I don’t say this with pride, I say this as a warning. The issue with Inside Pussy Riot that even putting your coat and bag (yes, and your bag) in the cloakroom feels like a scary Soviet Union policy but without spoiling too much you don’t want to be weighed down by all your life crap in your bag because the recreation of the Pussy Riot experience will weigh you down alone.  Keep your clothing light is my recommendation…

Written by Les Enfants Terrible ‘s Oliver Lansley you know you are in safe hands, their recent immersive Alice in Wonderland was a critical triumph. The production’s Associate Writer Nadya Tolokonnikova, who was arrested following Pussy Riot’s protest at Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012, which brought them to international attention. The protests, condemned as ‘sacrilegious’ were linked to the Russian Orthodox Church’s support of Vladimir Putin and the West was critical of their conviction. Russian public opinion less so.

The all-female cast guides you through the Feminist Punk Rock’s journey. For one evening only you are in Pussy Riot. You protest you get arrested, you get a ridiculous trial and finally imprisonment. All in an hour. There are some nice touches, the prevalence of not only Pussy Riot imagery but also (and perhaps intentionally timely) the reminders of Soviet Russia in the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution. Has anything really changed?  There are some great performances amongst the large cast but the issue I have with immersive theatre is that some performances can get lost amongst other distractions.

There is a great ‘scene’ where Cassandra Hercules reads the diary entries of, I believe,  Tolokonnikova but I was so distracted by other things I couldn’t fully engulf myself in the production at times. The sound is so crucial to this production but as an audience member, I felt a little lost on what I should be concentrating on and what I should be learning. Is it about the performance and taking part or is it all a handy link to the political message on offer; about freedom and about the lack of freedoms we all still face. Lansley discusses his issues with political theatre in the programme (which I would recommend purchasing) and the production can only touch on the circumstances in Russia which lead to this overreaction to a short protest.

There are fantastic performances all round, with Alex Gilbert as a prison guard causing one audience member to remark “Well that was scary” with Asha Reid, Rosalind McAndrew, Alice Ivor and Fleur Roth providing additional standout performances. It does feel a little immersive by numbers, its relatively small space, geared towards art rather than theatre, and time limit means it cannot be this sprawling ‘PunchDrunk-esque’ extravaganza but it does mean you lose the individuality of it. Would I recommend others to go? Yes. Would I go back? I am already looking at space in my diary but as a returnee, I won’t get a new experience each time I go, which would be unforgivable if this wasn’t such an excellent show whether new or old to immersive theatre.

 

Tickets can be purchased here https://insidepussyriot.seetickets.com/tour/inside-pussy-riot from £21.50

As the Saatchi Gallery recommends this is not for the faint-hearted (or claustrophobic or those with limited mobility) http://www.saatchigallery.com/art/inside-pussy-riot.php

 

 

 

 

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