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Pussy Riot: Riot Days review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘unsophisticated and unimaginative’

Pussy Riot - Riot Days. Photo: Jack Kirwin Pussy Riot - Riot Days. Photo: Jack Kirwin
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The feminist, punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot is a vital voice in Russian society, daring to dissent in the face of an oppressive and brutal regime. The feminist, punk-rock protest group Pussy Riot does not make good theatre shows. Both of these statements are true.

Riot Days, the group’s theatre-documentary-concert-thing chronicling its activities to date, adapted from Maria Alyokhina’s 2017 memoir of the same name, proves exactly that.

It’s an experience packed full of shocking and startling content but it’s also a frustrating, borderline tedious one. You leave with a profound respect for Pussy Riot’s cause, but a profound need for several pints.

Directed by Yury Muravitsky, it’s basically footage of Pussy Riot’s various stunts – staging a protest in Red Square, performing in an orthodox church – set to a ceaseless rhythm of drums and saxophone, and commentated upon, in Russian, by Alyokhina and associates.

It’s important politically – of course it is – but as a theatrical experience, it’s unsophisticated and unimaginative, painfully so. It’s repetitive, with little tension, little progression, and a slight whiff of self-congratulatory back-patting. The material is utterly compelling; the presentation just isn’t. There’s a better way to tell this story.

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Verdict
A galvanisingly political but borderline purgatorial documentary-cum-concert from the legendary Russian dissidents
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