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Pussy Riot Takes Fans Inside Prison With Immersive Theatrical Experience
Pussy Riot in Moscow in 2012. “Our plan is to provoke and challenge [our audience],” says Lansley
In 2012, Pussy Riot’s Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina were given two-year prison sentences (on charges of hooliganism incited by religious hatred) after performing a provocative rock song, “Punk Prayer,” in a Moscow church.
The incident inspired the 2013 documentary of the same name, and now, pegged to the 100th anniversary of the Russian Revolution, the collective is inviting fans and fellow “political junkies” (as Tolokonnikova calls herself) to pull on a bright balaclava for an immersive theater experience: Inside Pussy Riot.
“For a lot of people, protest means boring duty,” says Tolokonnikova. “But think back to 1968 [when] political events were so joyful. It was a carnival, it was a festival.” So why not theater? From Nov. 14 to Dec. 24 in London’s Saatchi Gallery, the theatrical experience, produced by Les Enfants Terribles and funded through Kickstarter, will grant a first-hand look at Russian prison life -- where Tolokonnikova dug trenches for churches while belting the Russian national anthem, among other punishments she can only describe as surreal. “We thought people would say, ‘They made shit up. It couldn’t happen in reality,’” she explains. “But it did.”
Even so, Inside Pussy Riot isn’t a sanctimonious political statement. “This is not about shaking our heads and going, ‘Aren’t those people awful,’” says Oliver Lansley, Les Enfants Terribles founder and writer/artistic director of Inside Pussy Riot. “It’s about stepping up and saying, ‘We can make change.’ Trying to create protest as a more positive and joyful experience.” Adds Tolokonnikova: “I want [participants] to walk away with the idea that solidarity is the best treasure we have.”