Wednesday, 22 November 2017

Pussy Riot - Riot Days. Live review. Glasgow Art School

Pussy Riot - Riot Days


Live review
Glasgow Art School
November 2017


Maria Alyokhina, of balaclava-clad, performance art troup Pussy Riot, spent two years in jail for a 40 seconds long protest in a Moscow church.Also jailed were fellow Pussy Riot members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Yekaterina Samutsevich. Alyokhina has written a book of her experiences with Pussy Riot, and her harsh time in prison (called Riot Days), and this story forms the core of the show, which falls somewhere between being a rally, a gig and a sharp piece of theatre.

Pussy Riot in action
 She is joined on stage by one-time Pussy Riot bass player, now playing saxophone, Nastya, with her fellow member of Russian lo-fi music outfit AWOTT (Asian Women On The Telephone) - Maxim - providing the electronic musical accompaniment and drums. Looking like the skinhead from the poster of French film Diva, "an actor from Minsk", Kiryl Mashenka, providing shouts, squawks and throws water over the audience when required. The show is produced by Alexander Cheparukhin (who introduced Pussy Riot to the stage with an intentionally Scottish "Pussy RRRRRiot") and Yury Muravitsky.

BDY_PRTS new album
Before that the visually canny and vowel-averse Glasgow band BDY_PRTS gave us a run through of some of the intriguing music from their forthcoming debut album Fly Invisible Hero. With a look somewhere between Abba and Bjork (is that the Faroe Islands then?) they put on a splendidly entertaining live show.

Much of the media attention which Pussy Riot have received has been focused on their situationalist performances, with it not often being made clear what they were calling for. At times it seemed more like Marlon Brando's Wild One; "What are you rebelling against?", "What've you got?" Performing here in Russian with projections behind them of archive footage of Pussy Riot in planning and in action, and with English super-titles, Alyokhina took us through the story of their protests against Putin's authoritarianism. With Putin's imminent re-election, and his reciprocated support of the Russian Orthodox church headed by Patriarch Kirill (who calls Putin's era a "miracle of God"), they then planned a protest in the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. Arrest and imprisonment soon followed.

Pussy Riot 
The minimalist music, stomping rhythms, and Alyokhina's strident Russian give the proceedings an energy and pace. The court room re-enactments with prosecution and defendants wearing paper plate masks or the familiar balaclavas, and the descriptions of jail conditions, arbitrary punishments and strip searches provide a window into the Kafkaesque legal system, determined to punish them. Funnily enough, despite all the trials and tribulations they took us through, the sight of two of the performers lighting up REAL cigarettes on stage, in this day and age, was one of the most eye-raising parts of the piece. Rebels.

Pussy Riot in court
Pussy Riot were never really a band. Their protests were against what they saw as a patriarchal, authoritarian state limiting women's options and people's rights to protest. 2 years in a Russian penal colony for 40 seconds of dancing in a church with a balaclava on, is brutal punishment. Their future may be limited to book tours and personal appearances, but they still find common cause at times, such as their attempt to shut down Trump Tower last year. Ultimately what they were opposed to held them together, rather than embracing common goals. Their desire to stick two fingers up to authority struck a chord with an enthusiastic Glasgow audience, who seemed to surprise the performers with their cheers as they finished up (joined on stage by Nadya Tolokonnikova for their curtain call). 

A fascinating and spikey evening.

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