Theatre review: ‘RIOT’

The show I attended at the Spiegeltent in Merrion Square, this evening was called ‘RIOT’. A headline show for the next week at the Dublin Fringe Festival.

The blurb on the flyer  was vague – it promised an electrifying showcase of magic, mystery and turmoil.  But it didn’t specify what exactly that meant. 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 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 of fear 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, actor 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 mullet-encrusted dance show was entertaining, and disturbingly sexy.  They kept the audience baying for more.

Next came the Queen of Ireland Panti whose leg was in a cast. He raised the roof. He lip-synced a surreal montage of camp film quotes. My favourite being ‘Why was I adopted?’ from ‘Mommie Dearest’  It was hilarious.

A butch trapeze dancer in a 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 theirr individual pieces. Claiming their spaces and expressing their opinions.

It was uplifting.

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;  and a guest performance, the women were background singers and dancers to the 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.

Maybe I’m just being a killjoy. It was a brilliant and rousing show nonetheless.

Perhaps 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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