As the smell of gas and the whirring of helicopters filled the room, a cross between confusion and excitement creased its way into the audience’s faces. Tweets depicting chaos, and fear and worry scrolled down the screen, as we were plunged head first into the riots that took place in London just a few months ago.
The intimate Tricycle theatre played a good host to the production, which aimed to mount its own inquiry into the causes behind the riots, as there had not as yet been one. Known for staging political plays, director Nicholas Kent and writer Gillian Slovo distilled a collection of 40 hour long interviews with people who were directly affected by the riots.
Analysing what happened and why it happened, the production used data from rioters, politicians and teachers as well as victims and on-lookers to tell the tale of what exactly went on in the days where England shocked all those who believed it to be a stable, satisfied country.
The production itself was supremely interesting, and realistic, as Nicholas Kent had intended. With many an eyebrow-raising statement made, the audience were left enthralled. It felt almost like we were being educated on something that we didn’t know about, although most of us had been there to see it.
Telling the tale through the mouths of each different person (names of who the actors represented appearing on the screen behind them), different perspectives are shared almost simultaneously, with contrasting views often building onto each other, giving what can be argued to be the most complete picture we have received so far on the causes behind the riots.
Inserting human moments and little facts that make what you’re witnessing feel so real (as in fact, they were), Nicholas Kent and Gillian Slovo should definitley be given plus points for their great attention to detail.
The evening was not all facts and gaping mouths, however, there were also many funny moments, with one person who took part in the riots joking that “because I was in Birkenstocks police didn’t think I was a threat.” Another rioter spoke on his experience looting. “I got like three box sets of Harry Potter. I don’t even like Harry Potter. But it was there, and it was free.”
Giving a supremely balanced view of the riots, there is much that makes you re-think the perspectives of those who have spent months hating and blaming the rioters. Showing the benefits of ‘putting yourself in their shoes’ the production explores the anger and frustration behind why these individuals acted that way.
It shows the importance of giving individuals something to belong to. This was portrayed particularly well with testimony that the Hackney Empire was left completely untouched, despite the fact that chaos was occurring all around it. This is apparently due to the fact that the Hackney Empire have lots of programmes for children. “It shows if you give them a sense of ownership, they’ll respect it.”
“These kids were to all intents and purposes suicide bombers” said one on-looker, explaining how they feel they are marginalised and labelled. “Saying stop or I’ll put you in jail is like saying to someone strapped with a bomb, stop, or I’ll shoot you.”
Leaving the theatre you are left with the strange sensation of being (almost) equally drawn to and understanding of each of the characters, having lived in their brains for the majority of the evening.
The production is showing at the Tricycle Theatre until December 10th. Get tickets here now.