Edinburgh Fringe 2012
Exeter graduates ‘Worklight Theatre’ embark on a theatrical journey into the depths of the mentality, and morality, of the London 2011 riots. Exceptional performances and astoundingly creative use of light.
In August 2011 the Fringe had just kicked off when news of extreme rioting in London reached Edinburgh. Over the proceeding days the theatrical bubble of the Fringe was punctuated with images of looting, aggressive violence and arson attacks from the capital and nobody knew quite how to act. The fact that many of the Fringe-goers come from that area of the country ensured that the riots had a heady impact on many up at the festival and, when it came to expected issues raised in many 2012 shows, the London riots was high up on the list.
I therefore went to see Exeter-based Worklight Theatre’s ‘How to start a Riot’ very unsure of what specifically about the riots they were going to focus their show on. As it turns out; everything. This sounds overwhelmingly ambitious Worklight’s Fringe premier and, as I walked into the small clumsily-converted conference room at The Space @Surgeons’ Hall, I was skeptical. However what followed was an hour of not only an incredibly realised piece of theatre but also the most informative explanation I’d seen of the riots themselves: the mentalities of the crowds; the tactics used by police and questions of how anyone could describe the violence as ‘mindless’.
The company is made up of Exeter graduates Callum Elliott Archer, Joe Sellman-Leava and Michael Woodman and from the second the show begins it is clear that the ability of these performers is boundless. Having worked with leading social psychologist Professor Alex Haslam, and crowd psychologist Dr. Clifford Stott they have compiled an in-depth exploration into the real experiences of the riots. Each of the performers slip so effortless from themselves to politicians, to riot police, to the ‘mindless thugs’ right at the centre of the action. I cannot quite describe their use of portable light in the show, it is simply something you have to witness first hand, and it is absolutely something you should witness.