Music review: Pussy Riot: Riot Days, Summerhall

Pussy Riot's show is angry and articulate about the state of modern Russia. Picture: Greg Macvean
Pussy Riot's show is angry and articulate about the state of modern Russia. Picture: Greg Macvean
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We were invited to summon the spirit of punk as Russian protest artists Pussy Riot took to the stage at Summerhall.

Pussy Riot: Riot Days, Summerhall (Venue 26) ****

Though in the music section of the programme, the show – which is ­preceded by a different support band each night – this is closer to gig theatre, a performance drawn from band founder Maria Alyokhina’s memoir, Riot Days, about her ­imprisonment in the gulag following a protest action in 2012 in Moscow’s Cathedral of Christ the Saviour.

While the band shouts and chants (in Russian) and pumps out loud guitar and wailing saxophone, a screen behind them tells the story of the protest (which lasted 40 seconds before they were­ ­forcibly removed), a short period on the run, then the trial and imprisonment of two band members.

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The text is at times poetic, at times declamatory. The show took an extra charge from the fact that Alyokhina was stopped from leaving Russia and had to be smuggled out of the country to take part in the tour.

Angry and articulate, they leave us in no doubt about the urgency of their concerns about the political situation in Russia, the rise and rise of Putin, the erosion of human rights, the close ties between the Putin regime and the Orthodox Church. And the Summerhall audience is with them every step of the way, buoyed up on the wave of noise, rallying to every ­battle cry.

Alyokhina’s presence is crucial, a living testimony to having endured nearly two years of prison, including hunger strikes and solitary confinement, due to an unshakable belief in the importance of freedom. Anyone who might be tempted to take their freedom for granted will find this angry, vital performance the best possible reminder that there are many places in the world where personal ­choices are also political.

• Until 19 August, 7pm