RIOT review by Virginia Proud

***.5 stars

There’s going to be a riot and Gin can’t stop talking about it. The almighty ‘they’ are responsible and crushing the people at the bottom of the food chain. But Gin is a whirlpool dragging down everyone around her. Her ex has had enough, and her new lovers are trying to cut through the noise to something real.

Written by Thomas Ian Doyle, who also directs, Riot has a sense of nihilism, born of Gin’s overanxiety, narcissism and inability to act in her own best interests. Gin is a mess and although some context is provided in a sobering revelation later in the piece, without any insight into her situation, it is difficult to warm to her. Creating an essentially unsympathetic main character is a tricky thing to pull off and it becomes problematic for the love story, because frankly, she’s not very loveable.

Thankfully, there are delightful punctuating scenes between Gin and her nerdy boss Kane, at a burger flipping joint. There is some strong writing, and even more potential for comedy here. I yearned for them to be ramped up, both in the delivery and physicality, as it is here, when Gin struggles with ‘real life’ that she is easiest to like.

Riot comes with strong warnings and these are well deserved. That said, all nudity and sex is excellently blocked and should cause concern for no one but the overly squeamish. Indeed, the intimate encounters we witness have a ring of authenticity, in particular a lovely scene between Gin and her older lover Lola. The gender fluidity in both casting and characters is a great feature of the performance and challenges a number of stereotypes. The cast of Riot could, and have, been played by actors of any sex or age.

Technically there are some interesting and effective design and production elements. Original music composed by Benjamin Brooker, who also plays Kane, provides a moody soundscape, that is pitched at just the right level. Movement and choreography is clear and adds drama to scene changes. Key props are introduced in spot lit tableau.

The cast delivers strong performances, but it is Marisa Matear as Gin, upon whose shoulders the play rests. They do a great job with the material, but I would love to see them lean in even more to Gin’s mania and really enjoy the character, particularly when she is spouting her various manifestos.

I did struggle with the ultimate question ‘what is this about’? But I enjoyed the performance and there is a lot to like, just perhaps more in the elements than in the whole.

Riot is playing at the MC Showroom, until 12 October.

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