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Gorilla Gigs | Pussy Riot Theatre

Let’s talk about Pussy Riot, a collective that blurs the line between music and performance, between art and protest. A group of women, that compromise their own freedom and liberties for the freedom and equality of others. A collective that when tickets go on sale for their tour you buy them, you’re not really sure what to expect but you go and you wait and you scream when they come on stage and you scream and shout at the accounts of their experiences.

This time they’re touring as PUSSY RIOT THEATRE a new Pussy Riot project lead by Maria Alyokhina, alongside three performers she takes their punk rock performances from unusual public places to more conventional music venues. The gig is held at Gorilla in Manchester, quite fitting as guerrilla performers is one way, amongst many, to describe exactly what it is these women do. The venue is packed right to the back, it’s hot and stuffy and the air is humid and the atmosphere is heavy and about to get a lot more intense as the performers enter a sparse stage. To the left there’s a drum kit and synth with three stand alone mic’s spanning the rest of the stage. Last to enter is Alyokhina, arriving to screams and applause she’s wearing an iconic black balaclava, with eye and mouth holes, synonymous to Pussy Riot’s performances. Behind her a projection screen declares ‘REVOLUTION REQUIRES A BIG SCREEN’. As she removes her balaclava we see the face of the woman from all of those press releases, from the performances and most memorably from behind glass next to her two bandmates, all three awaiting trial for the punishment of their protests to advocate freedom.

Riot Days follows the narrative of Alyokhina’s account of Pussy Riot’s performance in Moscow's Cathedral of Christ the Savior in 2012, her trial, incarceration and protests in prison. The concert is a performance broken up into parts, not songs. Each part, tells the experiences of this woman and how she became to be a political prisoner. The familiar stories of the Pussy Riot protests are sung, shouted and acted over synth, live drums, a saxophone and the voices of the other members on stage. Alongside the not so well known parts. What makes this performance unique, and real, is we’re hearing a firsthand account, in Alyokhina’s first language, with translations on the screen behind. We’re hearing from her and her performers what she said, and what others said to her and how they said it, not in English but in Russian.

There’s a lot that can be said about the music, this was after all a concert. There’s a lot about the music that i can’t quite find myself able to put into words. It was simple and powerful, at times almost non existent and at others completely oppressive. The first thing i want to read in a review is the music, the technicalities, the impression and the melodies. But with this performance it was different, the music was there, just like the images and videos on the screen and the translation of what was being said but my attention was wholeheartedly with Alyokhina. This woman in front of us all recites the injustices she faced, and most of the time the music became nothing more than background noise to what she had to say, in a language i didn’t need to understand to know it’s meaning. Occasionally i’d register the words on the back screen, how she’s told people she’d be back soon and didn’t return for 21 months, something about 40 seconds of crime, something else about ‘Part 4: The Trial’. At one point the synth starts to feedback, the pitch grabs my attention and projected were the words ‘The world seems to be coming into focus’.

You didn’t need to be touched, or make eye contact with the people one stage to find this performance immersive. No matter where you stood in the crowd, what was being said was for you. The woman on stage has no ordinary story and she performed it in no ordinary way. As citizens the members of Pussy Riot weren’t granted what they deemed an acceptable amount of freedom and they fought to change that, Alyokhina fought even in prison on hunger strike and she is still fighting now, in a music venue in Manchester on a rainy Monday night. The women in Pussy Riot knew the potential consequences of their actions and they protested anyway because freedom for everybody was more important than their own individual freedom. And they continue. The last words on the screen read: “Freedom doesn’t exist unless you fight for it every day’

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