‘It Can Hap­pen Any­where’: Pussy Riot plans prison theater

Kuwait Times - - LIFESTYLE -

The front­woman of Rus­sian punk provo­ca­teurs Pussy Riot is plan­ning to recre­ate her prison or­deal through an im­mer­sive the­atri­cal piece with a mes­sage to au­di­ences-it can hap­pen to you. Nadezhda Tolokon­nikova an­nounced that the project, “In­side Pussy Riot,” would open with a six-week run later this year in Lon­don, with an in­ter­ac­tive set in which au­di­ences live through the rock­ers’ ex­pe­ri­ence. An out­spo­ken critic of Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin, Tolokon­nikova said she de­vel­oped the piece out of fear that more peo­ple will be tar­geted for their po­lit­i­cal views amid a rise of “au­thor­i­tar­ian and right-wing misog­y­nist ten­den­cies” around the world-in which she in­cludes the elec­tion of US Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

“It was re­ally im­por­tant to com­mu­ni­cate to peo­ple that what hap­pened with us can hap­pen with any­body. We wanted to show peo­ple in their own skin what it means to be a pris­oner,” she told AFP by tele­phone. Tolokon­nikova and band­mate Maria Alyokhina were pros­e­cuted af­ter sneak­ing into a cathe­dral near the Krem­lin in 2012 and per­form­ing-for less than a minute-a “punk prayer” against Putin. The two were im­pris­oned for nearly two years on a con­vic­tion for hooli­gan­ism. Serv­ing in a for­mer Soviet-era gu­lag, Tolokon­nikova protested prison con­di­tions by go­ing on a nine-day hunger strike, re­quir­ing med­i­cal in­ter­ven­tion.

In po­si­tion to speak out

“I did un­der­stand when I was in prison that I am more priv­i­leged in a way, be­cause I have the op­por­tu­nity to tell what’s go­ing on there. So now I’m try­ing to keep do­ing this work,” Tolokon­nikova said. Tolokon­nikova an­nounced a Kick­starter cam­paign to raise funds to sup­port the pro­duc­tion, which she said would fea­ture new Pussy Riot songs and videos and use ac­tors to recre­ate the band’s odyssey. She is col­lab­o­rat­ing with Lon­don theater com­pany Les En­fants Ter­ri­bles, known for sets in which au­di­ences en­ter and choose their own paths. The group pre­vi­ously cre­ated an in­ter­ac­tive ver­sion of chil­dren’s clas­sic “Alice’s Ad­ven­tures in Won­der­land.”

Band­mate Alyokhina has also turned to theater, ear­lier this year in the United States pre­mier­ing the piece “Rev­o­lu­tion” that looks at the in­tel­lec­tual un­der­pin­nings of Pussy Riot’s re­bel­lion, set to digital hard­core rock. Tolokon­nikova said that she and Alyokhina were at­tend­ing each other’s per­for­mances and still worked to­gether on hu­man rights ad­vo­cacy but were pur­su­ing dif­fer­ent artis­tic di­rec­tions.

Hope­ful for Rus­sia

Tolokon­nikova, who cites leftist in­tel­lec­tual Noam Chom­sky as an in­flu­ence, links the surge of right-wing pop­ulism to the rise of oli­garchs and the fail­ure of main­stream po­lit­i­cal dis­course to show al­ter­na­tives. Tolokon­nikova counts her­self as an en­thu­si­as­tic sup­porter of Alexei Navalny, an out­spo­ken critic of cor­rup­tion in Rus­sia who has vowed to run in next year’s pres­i­den­tial elec­tion. She said that 2018 looked like “a very promis­ing year” and pointed to the thou­sands of peo­ple who took to the streets on June 12 af­ter a protest call by Navalny.

But Putin won a land­slide vic­tory in the last elec­tion in 2012 and has con­sol­i­dated power over nearly two decades in di­rect or in­di­rect power. Navalny was re­cently jailed for or­ga­niz­ing unau­tho­rized protests and elec­tion au­thor­i­ties say an ear­lier sen­tence makes him in­el­i­gi­ble to run. Still, Tolokon­nikova in­sisted that Rus­sian au­thor­i­ties “can­not re­ally shut him up.” She likened him to Bernie San­ders in the United States and Jeremy Cor­byn in Bri­tain, two cam­paign­ers whose fo­cus on in­equal­ity has won them avid fol­low­ings among young peo­ple. Meet­ing while in prison with in­mates of di­verse back­grounds, Tolokon­nikova be­came con­vinced that op­po­si­tion to Putin was more wide­spread than por­trayed in state-con­troled me­dia. “They are not blind. They see that cor­rup­tion is erod­ing ba­sic eco­nomic and civil so­ci­ety and me­dia in­sti­tu­tions in Rus­sia and they want to see the end of it,” she said. “I un­der­stood from con­ver­sa­tions that the Rus­sian peo­ple are wait­ing for the mo­ment when they can go to the streets,” she said.

This file photo shows Rus­sian ac­tivist Nadezhda Tolokon­nikova of Rus­sian fem­i­nist punk rock protest group, Pussy Riot, ad­dress­ing the crowd from on top of a Rus­sian mil­i­tary ve­hi­cle at The Park stage on the first of­fi­cial day of the Glas­ton­bury Fes­ti­val of Mu­sic and Per­form­ing Arts on Wor­thy Farm near the vil­lage of Pil­ton in Som­er­set, South West England. — AFP

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