Edinburgh review: How to Start a Riot

Written for The Stage

What sparked the fires that spread across the UK’s cities last August? David Cameron may have blamed it on ‘mindless violence’ but Worklight Theatre think there’s more to it than that and How to Start a Riot is trying to find out what. Working closely with social psychologist Professor Alex Haslam, and crowd psychologist Dr Clifford Stott, this small but punchy show is full of facts and figures that explode our personal misconceptions of what a riot really is. The cleverly crafted changes of pace and darting torchlights that illuminate their experiment mean for all the stats it’s never dry.

Tribalism is discussed, along with reactionary escalation. The points of view of the protesters and the police are put forward though politicians are simplified into devilish beasts.

But this isn’t just about protesters versus the establishment. This is about ignorance and fear versus information and understanding. Callum Elliott-Archer, Joe Sellman-Leava and Michael Woodman have jumped into the fray not to dictate conclusions but as part of their own process in working out what happened in August 2011.

Seeing not only their civil consciences but their imaginations ignited in the process is a thrill, in a show that is as visually exciting as its insight into civil unrest is fascinating.

For more information on Worklight Theatre go here.


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