Edinburgh Theatre

The year 2015-2016 was a big year for me, coming to Edinburgh after working in the Middle East for several years. One of the first things I did was visit the Festival Theatre, where I fell in love with modern dance (I hate dancing, so don’t switch off if you are also not a dancer). Although I intend to continue visiting the Festival, I will also be trying out other venues, for modern dance, drama, ballet and opera.

Pussy Riot + The Estrons (Edinburgh Festival)

Pussy-Riot-and-The-Estrons-II

Pussy Riot + The Estrons (Edinburgh Festival)

You say 'punk,' I think of skinny men with psycho eyes, about to launch themselves at you with Doc Marten feet and broken beer bottles. Punk as frustrated patriarchy, turned in on itself, lashing out at anyone who comes near.

I'm so glad, then, that I went to watch the mesmerizing Pussy Riot last night, and their wonderful supporting act The Estrons, where I had my preconceptions challenged. Let's start with Pussy Riot: this wasn't just punk but Theatre of Punk, of art as a maker of trouble for those in power. Set up with their front person Maria Alyokhina flanked by a raw, trench-coated bloke, and a saxophone-playing lookalike for Katie Puckrik, the band told the story of Maria's experiences as protestor, band member and Gulag intern, centred on that performance at the Moscow Cathedral in 2012. The set performed entirely in Russian, their angry fragments of poetry and narrative were translated high above by a screen with accompanying footage and images. Their targets were many: President Putin, but also the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, who came out in support for Putin in a 2012 election, calling Putin a 'miracle of God.'

Putin's effective dictatorship of Russia bore the brunt, however. I'm aware, having read The Panama Papers, of some of the accusations against him, of his siphoning off billions of dollars of Russia's state finances into tax-free havens under the names of various close colleagues. Maria also got personal with her stories and images of her time at the Gulag, of her successful complaints against the harassment there. Images of protests being broken up punctuated, but it's difficult to watch such scenes and not think of how US police forces attacked Occupy Wall Street protesters, even if in those cases the police were suspended (presumably due to the majority of the students being white). Pussy Riot's performance was made doubly remarkable by Maria's very presence: Russian authorities had forbidden her from leaving her country for these concerts, and her fate on her return is harrowing to think about. This is one brave band of artists. I'm glad I was there in the sticky intensity of the sell-out crowd.

From a more purely musical perspective, I'm also glad I watched Cardiff-based supporting act The Estrons. Punk, I've come to realize, feels safer, more empowering, and more melodic, with a female frontperson, reassuring me I haven't just interrupted a gathering from Fight Club. Youtubing them after, I particularly love their song Drop with its capture of faint dreamy echo imbuing the guitar and vocals. Their tight set, cool songs and charismatic singer, Tali Kallstrom, are destined for big things, their debut album due on 5 October. Both these acts, in fact, in very different ways, have an intense, eye-catching future ahead of them.


Pussy Riot image taken from The Skinny, 14 August 2018
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Edinburgh Book Festival: Precarious Freedoms panel
 

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Tuesday, 22 October 2019

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