First disabled arts champ named

First disabled arts champ named

The arts producer and strategist Andrew Miller has been appointed the first champion for the disabled in arts and culture.

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

New reports show how Brexit will hit the arts

English cultural organisations stand to lose £40m a year with Brexit, with 64% oif them currently working inside the European Union. The report from EUCLID, commissioned by Arts Council England, shows that between 2007 and 2016 the EU contributed £345m to England’s arts, museums and creative industries, or £40m a year.

Boost for Banbury Museum expansion

Councillors have agreed plans to double the size of Banbury’s museum in a £5m expansion scheme.

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Creative Scotland apology over funding row

Archer promises review of funding process

Books by the Ocean

Books by the Ocean

A ‘crazy’ notion to bring a literary festival to Sri Lanka has proved an astounding success. Patrick Kelly reports

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

Cultural kids' programme reaching out

An Arts Council programme devised to help young children from deprived areas through involvement in the arts is working, according to an evaluation report published today.

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Call for arts support in Northern Ireland

Arts sector representatives and tourist companies in Northern Ireland have called on politicians to recognise the important role the arts plays in the economy of the region.

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

Music venues survey shows third ‘under threat’

But Scotland embraces ‘Agent of Change’ principle.

Hockney is critics' choice

Hockney is critics' choice

David Hockney is to receive the Critics’ Circle Award for 2017, only the second time a visual artist has been selected for the prestigious prize in the Circle’s 105-year history.

Photojournalism's art gallery

Photojournalism's art gallery

A new website at last gives Fleet Street’s photographers a showcase for their work as art. Simon Tait spoke to its founders, Fleet Street veterans Alan Sparrow and Bret Painter-Spanyol

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Museums' collecting frozen by funding cuts

Britain’s museums are being increasingly excluded from the art market by cuts in funding, stifling the acquisitions that are the life force for public collections.

Creative industries on track to create 1m local jobs - Nesta

The creative industries are driving the UK’s economic growth, expanding twice as fast as any other sector, according to new research by Nesta.

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

BAFTA/BFI set harassment zero-tolerance rules

Film and television organisations led by BAFT and the BFI have set a series of principles and guidelines to deal with bullying and sexual harassment in the industry.

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Tax deal takes early Freuds back to Lakes

Two really portraits by Lucian Freud have been left to the nation in lieu of tax and allocated to the Abbott Hall Gallery in Kendal.

Mary Beard to front Front Row

Mary Beard to front Front Row

The classics professor Mary Beard is to anchor the revamped television version of the arts review magazine Front Row when it returns in the spring.

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

17c mystery painting still baffling experts

This large picture of 1665 by an anonymous artist is one of the great mysteries of the art world, and is the centerpiece of a forthcoming major Norwich Castle Museum exhibition.

London goes Underground

London goes Underground

Photographs of some faces and places associated with the capital go on display at five London Tube stations this week.

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

British Art Fair goes to the Saatchi

Celebrating its 30th birthday this year, the 20/21 British Art Fair has changed ownership and will move to the Saatchi Gallery.

GALLERIES Immersed in Pussy Riot

In March 2012 two members of the feminist punk rock group Pussy Riot were jailed for two years after the group’s performance in Moscow Cathedral protesting against the church’s support of Putin. The experience of one of them, Nadia Tolokonnikova, is the subject of an extraordinary theatrical event being performed by an all-female cast as part of a Saatchi Gallery exhibition this month, created by Les Enfants Terribles

The Saatchi Gallery’s exhibition, Art Riot, marks the centenary of the Russian Revolution through Russian protest art over the last 25 years, with posters, video art, photography and performance art, but a show-stealer is going to be an installation by a theatre company, Les Enfants Terribles, which in 2015 stole headlines with its Olivier-nominated Alice’s Adventures Underground immersive show in The Vaults beneath Waterloo Station when audiences of 750 and more trailed through 30 rooms after Alice and her White Rabbit.

Their new work, Inside Pussy Riot, is different. Running from November 14 to December 24, it will have a cast of 18 working in shifts of ten, from 11.15 am to 6.30 with late shows on three nights of the week, each one lasting an hour. There will be between 40 and 50 performances a day, with a new audience of about 15 arriving every seven minutes.

“What we do is story-telling, and Nadia’s story was one we desperately wanted to tell” says Les Enfants Terribles’ founder Oliver Lansley. “We decided we wanted to immerse the audience in her story.”

The company has worked closely with Tolokonnikova since Lansley was approached by the Russian dissident and theatre producer Alexandrina Markvo after she’d seen Alice’s Adventures Underground, and the connection was made with Pussy Riot. “While the setting for the show is Russia, this situation is all too familiar in many countries today” Markvo says, who is co-producing the production with Les Enfants Terribles’ producer, James Seager. “I hope this blisteringly political production will also serve as a powerful reminder to citizens of democratic countries to cherish and defend their freedoms”.

The company is concerned with experimental theatre, not the agit prop that once characterised Soviet theatre. Though Inside Pussy Riot comes 16 years after Lansley, then 19, founded it, it’s a watershed in the development of Les Enfants Terribles. He had come to the business straight from school in Surrey – and a charismatic drama teacher – via youth theatre into acting and then to put on his first show, Steven Berkov’s West. He and Seager had acted together in a Shakespeare festival; they shared an impatience, wanting to get on stage rather than spend three years at drama school, and went into partnership.

The show they were reprising at Wilton’s Music Hall in October, Terrible Infants, a series of tales that uses puppets and music, was their first watershed in 2007, “where we decided this is what we want to do, the show where we really found our voice” Lansley says. “We were hugely influenced by the European Absurdists, Ionesco, Berkov, Roald Dahl, and it’s really a series of short morality tales. It’s a show that makes grown-ups feel like children”.

Inside Pussy Riot, however, tells the true story of the conceptual artist and political activist Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, known as Nadya Tolokno, who is part of the controversial street art group Voina that has more than 60 members, mostly students, and refuses to co-operate with state institutions, staging street protests and impromptu performances that do not stop short at vandalism. She was also part of the 11-strong feminist punk group Pussy Riot which made a 35-second guerrilla performance of a song, Virgin Mary Put Putin Away, inside Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour in February 2012, after which she and another member were arrested and charged with “hooliganism motivated by religious hatred”.

In August that year Tolokonnikova was jailed for two years and sent to a female penal colony where she was expected to work 17 hours a day, sleep for three or four hours and have a day off every eighth week. She says she was frequently beaten up and made to stand in the Russian outdoors with a single layer of clothing. Amnesty International recognised her as a political prisoner. Her experiences, written as letters, were published on her release in December 2013 under an amnesty from the State Duma, and last year she published an autobiography, How to Start a Revolution.

“It feels like the right kind of story to be telling about Russia and the rest of the world at the moment” says Lansley, the author of the play. “It’s the essence of what Pussy Riot stood for, much more than what they did in that church and what they were talking about then. Standing up against huge patriarchal authority is a very important message to be sending out. There was great boldness to what Nadia and Pussy Riot did, and we’ll do our very best to show that.”

And although this is about Tolokonnikova’s experiences, the take on them belongs to Lansley. In 2012 the company presented a more conventional, piece, Trench, based on the true story of a First World War sapper, and Seager and Lansley say they feel more comfortable with real life narratives now than fantasy, which might mean them becoming more politically engaged. “Art often needs to ask questions of society and hold up mirrors – never more so than now -  and more than ever artists have a duty to try to be provocateurs” Lansley says.

“We will be touching on Nadya’s nastier experiences” he says “but our responsibility it to create an uplifting experience, and while we don’t want to shy away from what happened to her the trick is to get a balance”. There are no puppets in this production, there are circus elements though and the audience will be expected to take part, donning balaclava helmets “and standing up for what they believe”.

“We’re not talking about fairy tales any more” Seager adds. “We’re telling real stories”.

Inside Pussy Riot is at the Saatchi Gallery, Duke of York’s HQ, King’s Road, London SW3 4RY, November 14 – Sunday 24 December 2017. www.seetickets.com

http://www.insidepussyriot.com/

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