There are so many roads that lead to making RIOT; Jenny Jennings and I, at THISISPOPBABY, had travelled to festivals and clubs around the world over many years seeing incredible shows that blurred the lines between circus, comedy, burlesque, dance and nightclub.
These shows were often presented in Spiegeltents or bespoke venues and the energy both on-stage and in the audiences was mind blowing. Throughout the same years, we were presenting amazing artists at our POP tent at Electric Picnic and at our WERK club nights at the Abbey Theatre and at IMMA; artists like Panti, Le Gateau Chocolat, Jonny Woo, Up & Over It, Justin V Bond, Lisa Hannigan – and more.
As THISISPOPBABY grew and audiences came on the journey with us, we knew there was an appetite for this high-octane nutty performance and we set about dreaming up a show that would embody the boldness and the energy of shows we’d experienced abroad, but that felt uniquely Irish, or personal to us. THISISPOPBABY prides itself in having one foot rooted firmly in high art and the other in trash culture, and we wondered if we could make a SHOW FOR OUR TIMES with this ethos. Something that spoke about now and something that could be a call to action for the future.
Looking to successful Irish exports, and terrific stories of creativity and drive, we asked ourselves, what would our Riverdance look like? What would THISISPOPBABY’s Riverdance look like? We had set ourselves a fun challenge – to showcase the very best of contemporary Irish Culture. This was not about looking back, or if it was, it was only as a way of moving forward – together.
But what did we have that was unique to Ireland, now? Theatre. Specifically, words. There are several texts threaded throughout the show – including Emmet Kirwan’s incredible Heartbreak – and they become a love song to Ireland and a clarion call to the power of people and the strength of communities. This - laced with striptease, Irish dance, ensemble numbers and Panti! – makes for a divine celebration and blunt criticism of what it means to live in Ireland today.
All shows, especially big ones like RIOT, take time and resources. We had spent a few years working on the resources, and with much credit and respect to the Arts Council, they believed in this project and were responsible for helping us realise it so beautifully in partnership with the Dublin Fringe Festival. We also needed the planets to align for our dream cast to all be available at the same time.
We missed out a couple of times, but in the dying light of the summer of 2016, Lords of Strut, Panti, Up & Over It, The Sirens, Megan Riordan, Ronan Brady and Emmet Kirwan all answered our call, and the show played to five thousand people in Merrion Square. Now, in a pimped up Vicar Street in 2017, we are ready to meet at the barricades once more.
RIOT returns to Vicar Street, Dublin from July 6-8th - details here.