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Pussy Riot make history at the Adelaide Fringe with Riot Days

In the August of 2012, Maria “Masha” Alyokhina was convicted of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred” for a guerrilla performance in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Savior and was sentenced to two years’ imprisonment. She served a year of her sentence before being released under amnesty as a prisoner of political conscience.

She has not let the trauma of the Russian Gulag-style judicial system keep her at bay. In a world first, she fronted the six-member avant-garde performance Pussy Riot: Riot Days at the 2019 Adelaide Fringe Festival, a performance that will forever hold a place in the minds of her audiences.

Photo: Tony Kearney

In a frenzied mix of avant-garde theatre, experimental jazz-punk and Russian-narrated storytelling, key members of Pussy Riot made history with their Riot Days performance at the Adelaide Fringe Festival.

An intense and passionate orator, Alyokhina chronicled pages of her politically motivated exposé Riot Days in her native Russian set to a soundtrack of explosive and experimental jazz-punk. Other Pussy Riot members moonlighted as stand-up drummers, aggressive saxophonists, deadpan trumpeters, interpretive dancers and dissonantly operatic vocalists, all captivating and terrifying simultaneously. Audience members were unsure whether to focus on the English subtitles that graced the top of the video montage that played behind the group, or whether to keep their attention focused on the bedlam and excitement that was gracing the stage before them.

“Riot in Russia – we exist!
Riot in Russia – Riot, Riot!”

The world-first performance is both intoxicatingly aggressive and overwhelmingly inspiring. A cocktail of political theatre, documentary, experimental music and avant-garde storytelling, Pussy Riot: Riot Days is definitely not for the faint of heart. The entire performance is assaulting – visually, sonically and sensually – and provides the perfect channel for members to unleash their fury at the moral and political corruption that continues to plague their home country of Russia.

In Russia, there are no women priests. In Russia, there are Pussy Riot”. 

The show places emphasis on but does not base itself on the patriarchal reign of Putin. It instead details the religious and cultural falsifications that continue to manipulate their country’s collective beliefs. Prior to the performance’s onset, audience members were made privy to the work of Alyokhina and associate Pussy Riot member Nadya Tolokonnikova’s efforts at establishing MediaZona, an alternative and non-partisan media outlet that focuses on the judicial, law enforcement and penal systems in Russia.

Midway through the show, Pussy Riot member Sasha, one of two performing males, hurls water at audience members; some recoil at the sensation, others relish in the sweet relief. It was an honour to get soaked by a member of arguably one of the most important political activist groups of the twenty-first century.

“Riot in Russia – charisma of protest!
Riot in Russia – Putin peed his pants!”

Upon the show’s final moments, Alyokhina descended upon the microphone and, in near-perfect English, told the audience that Pussy Riot’s plight is far from over. She may be out of incarceration, but her comrades still face time behind bars. Riot Days, she explains, is about helping the people who helped her. All profits from the sale of merchandise are fed directly to the lawyers and families of Pussy Riot members who remain in prison.

Pussy Riot: Riot Days was performed at The Attic, RCC Fringe.

Pussy Riot: Riot Days
February 27 – March 3
The Attic, RCC Fringe
Tickets

Pussy Riot live in concert
Thursday, March 7
Maths Lawns, RCC Fringe
Tickets 

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March 1, 2019