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Stuart King

Review: RIOT ACT at the Arcola Theatre

Riot Act To coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, Alexis Gregory’s one-man-three-characters piece, was created through his interviews with prominent individuals from the LGBTQ gay rights movement. Through their recollections, he succeeds in informing, shocking, and above all, entertaining.

Sensitive to the subject matter, Rikki Beadle-Blair’s, direction of RIOT ACT (currently at the Arcola Theatre prior to a wider national tour), explores landmark moments in modern queer history without ever being didactic. Instead, by reliving heart-warming and surprising personal recollections the audience gets to vicariously experience profoundly tragic, moving, and often hilarious occurrences spanning six decades in New York and London, which proved turbulent and extraordinary for those cities and especially their gay communities.

Verbatim transcripts of interviews conducted with Michael-Anthony Nozzi, one of the few remaining Stonewall survivors, Lavinia Co-op, the radical-drag artist performing in 1970s London, and prominent 1990s AIDS activist Paul Burston form the basis for the piece and it does exactly what it says on the tin. So if this is your sort of thing - grab a ticket. You certainly won’t be disappointed.

Gregory’s delivery of each nuanced monologue (delivered with minimal set and costume changes), is energised with subtlety and an intense and overwhelming passion which breathes life into the individual stories without ever becoming clichéd or pastiche. There are truly revelatory moments where the brutal honesty and descriptive power of first-hand recollection, can be difficult to bear, but they are among the finest and most moving in an evening filled with gems and nuggets.