Theatre review: ‘RIOT’

At the Spiegeltent this evening was ‘RIOT’. A headline show for the next week at the Dublin Fringe Festival.

The blurb was vague- it promised an electrifying show of magic and mystery and turmoil.  But it didn’t specify what exactly was in store. Was it a play? Was it cabaret? Was it a performance? Who knows? Who cares? The promotional material was slick.

The tent was full. The atmosphere was uplifting. The Tiger Beer was flowing (Tiger Beer is the sponsor of the festival.)

It started with a Riverdance-esque sequence of Irish cailini in green velvet, with the lead singing ‘She moved through the fair’. A chill went down my spine.

Please don’t let this be a play about how awful and oppressive Ireland is. I couldn’t be dealing with that on a Friday evening. Her voice was beautiful though.

At the end of the song in a seamless segue, Irish spoken-word artiste Emmett Kirwan took to the stage to rap about the current condition for the under-waged in our nation. It was exciting, as the audience was engaged by the music and lyrics.

There followed an exhilarating smorgasbord of performance.

The Kings of Strut doing their Irish knacker duo dance show was entertaining, and disturbingly sexy.  They kept the audience baying for more.

Next came royalty. The Queen of Ireland, in his inimitable style made the most of his injury.

Panti’s leg was in a cast.

Apparently he had injured his limb. There’s a cost to being an international superstar. He raised the roof. He is a STAR. He lip-synced a surreal montage of camp film quotes. My favourite being ‘Why was I adopted?’ You could sense the tension in the audience. Here was a genuine, internationally fabulous superstar, mingling with his subjects. It was joyous.
The butch trapeze dancer in his singlet raised the blood pressure of the ladies and gay gentlemen of the audience, as he swirled in the sky as the singers serenaded him, and his beautiful physique.

It wasn’t a play. It was cabaret. There was no narrative sequence. The theme seemed to be to reject the normative reality of Ireland. Dancers, singers, actors, rappers performing their individual pieces. Claiming their spaces and expressing their opinions.

It was uplifting. The audience loved it.

But I felt a bit uncomfortable. Not when one of the Kings of Strut pretended to be Jesus squeezing through a giant cockring, clothed in figure hugging clingfilm. That was hilarious. Not when Panti strode the stage in her cast, demanding that everyone be allowed to claim their inner Farrah Fawcett. To delirious applause.

It was more to do with the fact that in a show that wanted to claim space for the rebel, and underdog and freak, that there was so little performance space for women as front of stage people.

In an era where we are meant to be waking the feminists, there was very few segments that a woman was centre stage, telling her story. Aside from a piece where a female performer stood in the way of control – in a funny piece – and a guest performance, the women were background singers and dancers to the boys. It was a boys’ show. Not that there’s anything wrong with boys. But really?

When a man – Emmett Kirwan – tells the story of working class women and their place in the world, then you have to ask, why a woman couldn’t tell that story. Am I old school? Who knows?

Maybe I’m just being a killjoy. I probably am. As it was a brilliant and rousing show.

I think too much.

I met some of the Hot Brown Honeys, from their show earlier in the week outside. They seemed to have enjoyed it.

As did I. It was good to have an old fashioned ‘fuck the system’ show on display on the hallowed grounds of  Merrion Square. That’s Oscar Wilde country.

It’s on till Saturday week in the Spiegeltent. Go see it. You’ll leave smiling.


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