Russian dissident anarcho-feminist punk troupe Pussy Riot are coming to Chelsea in November.
Inside Pussy Riot has been described as an ‘immersive theatre experience’, allowing participants to live the realities of the band’s incarceration in a Russian prison in 2012.
The production opens on November 14 at the Saatchi Gallery and will run alongside the gallery’s Art Riot exhibition on Post-Soviet Activism.
Pussy Riot, creators of songs like ‘Kill the Sexist’, shot to ironic stardom in 2012, when three of their artists were imprisoned on a charge of “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred.”
Their crime had been to perform a song called ‘Virgin Mary Throw Putin Away” in a cathedral near the Kremlin. Their sentence was two years in labour camps in the Volga Uplands, 400 miles from Moscow.
Now the group are ready to perform again, this time on the King’s Road. Band founder Nadya Tolonnikova was impressed by Les Enfants’ Olivier-nominated immersive performance, Alice’s Adventures Underground, when she arrived in London following her release. Alice, replete with lights and innovative use of puppetry, was the brain-child of artistic director Oliver Lansley.
Lansley recognises a definite irony in the Russian activists’ choosing to tell their story in one of London’s most expensive neighbourhoods, but sees it as an opportunity. “We’re a theatre company in one of the most affluent cities in the world,” he says. “It would be wrong not to use that to tell this story.”
‘This story’ is partly a simple tale of freedom of speech against an authoritarian regime. But the point of Inside Pussy Riot is that there’s another side to the coin. Pressed on why one would choose such an haute venue as the Saatchi for an anti-establishment outfit like Pussy Riot, Lansley is clear:- “If we chose some grubby underground venue we’d draw an audience of young leftie hipsters who would cheer and agree with everything they heard. Part of being provocateurs is that you don’t just say what you want within an echo chamber.”
As grubby and graphic a story as Inside Pussy Riot promises to tell, Lansley and Tolonnikova hope that it will draw as diverse an audience as London can muster up. In a world where it is all too easy to confine oneself to comfort and opinions one finds agreeable, Pussy Riot claim that they have as much to teach London as they do Moscow.