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  • Chris O'Rourke

Tiger Dublin Fringe 2016: RIOT


Photo credit: Conor Horgan


A party political broadcast on behalf of THISISPOPBABY

In the programme notes for RIOT, director of the forthcoming 'Anna Karenina' at The Abbey Theatre, Wayne Jordan, verges on the ecstatic in his praise for Ireland’s greatest gang of artistic hooligans, THISISPOPBABY. And deservedly so. A decade since they first introduced themselves with Danny and Chantelle, Fringe favourites and Dublin based agitators THISISPOPBABY have radicalised and revolutionised the face of Irish theatre and Irish attitudes. So it seems only fitting that their ten-year anniversary be celebrated in the legendary Spiegeltent as part of The Tiger Dublin Fringe in Merrion Square. Except THISISPOPBABY don’t just want to party. They want to party with intent. Welcome to RIOT. Fasten your seatbelts, it’s going to be a bumpy night.

Beginning with a bigger intro than most shows finish with, RIOT announces itself with the kind of ferocity usually reserved for an anthemic finish at a metal concert. There’s songs, dance and laughter throughout, awash in the colours of an all-night rave. But this bitch brought blades in her handbag and she’s come looking for a fight. A second uprising, 100 years later, fighting for the mind, heart and soul of Ireland, RIOT’s rebels square up to the green sirens calling hauntingly into the mythic and mystic past. But RIOT has its own poets and oral tradition, and Emmet Kirwan’s spoken word attacks use words against those who abuse words. Chucking a theatrical hand grenade into the fray, he lays waste to a fabricated Ireland, and his ode to a young Irish woman raises hairs on the back of your neck. Ring-mistress for the evening, the incomparable Queen of Ireland, Panti Bliss, lip syncs and channels Miss Jean Brodie, lectures on Farah Fawcett and looks fabulous as always while doing it. Meanwhile, Eileen Walsh delivers her own inimitable interpretation of ‘The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,’ and Lords of Strut see to it that Christ gets another public scourging.

Interspersed between poetic political protest, Roscommon legend Ronan Brady delivers a striptease with Tayto as well as some aerial and ring work, and a quietly powerful sequence juxtaposing the memories of an older man from Mullingar with the image of Brady at his muscular best. Lords of Strut also try their own ring routine, but wisely revert to changing the world with 80’s dance. An incredible table routine by Up and Over It gets the crowd cheering, as do some deeply hilarious and dance out loud performances by Alma Kelliher, Ruth Smith, Nicola Kavanagh, Adam Matthews and Megan Riordan rounding out RIOT’s impressive cast.

An act of dissident theatre, RIOT might confound those who prefer their fun night of cabaret to come without a side order of protest and politics. But fear not, if directors Philip McMahon and Jennifer Jennings ensure RIOT’s party is a political broadcast, they also make sure it walks both the walk and the catwalk, with dazzling cabaret and circus acts in abundance.

If engagement with art is an act of creative participation, not one of passive consumption, the same holds true of life. And of RIOT! RIOT is an act of love, an act of kindness, an act of creation and an act of rebellion. It is a love poem of hope from the heart to the future where nothing and no one is destined. Get your best dress on, or off, and go grab your dancing shows. Then go raise a RIOT with THISISPOPBABY as they take it from the stage to the street, with their carnival of camp cabaret celebrating a culture changing decade of decadence. Roll on the next ten years.

‘RIOT’ by THISISPOPBABY runs at The Spiegeltent@Merrion Square until September 25th

For more information, visit Tiger Dublin Fringe

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