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The Riots

Published 23 November 2011

For four days in August, Britain suffered riots and looting the likes of which were unseen since the 80s. In two hours, the Tricycle explores the memorable events.

The Tricycle theatre has a reputation for tackling political hot potatoes with gusto, but even for them, to react within three months is remarkable. Some have already claimed it is too early – the wounds still raw, the embers still burning, the bandwagon ripe for jumping on – others counter that the haste merely reflects topicality.

Either way, Gillian Slovo’s piece, created from interviews and testimony given by those affected by, or reacting to, the riots wears its political heart on its sleeve. There is little to be found reflecting the anger and fear of living through those days; not as a member of the public, certainly.

Maybe the Tricycle is not the place for recollecting those feelings, the time for fear having passed. It is now, I guess, a time for reflection.

Like an intricate jigsaw puzzle of thought and counter-thought, Slovo has pieced together the views of a disparate bunch, from the eloquent Stafford Scott – the driving force behind the peaceful protest against the police’s part in Mark Duggan’s death, which escalated into rioting – to the Chief Inspector controlling policing the night the trouble started in Tottenham.

It is certainly intriguing to hear the differing views, especially in the first act, which explores how the trouble grew. While the police talk of violent looters, the founder of Haringey Young People Empowered describes excitement, potential and peace.

The second half delves deeper into cause and response, with MPs including Diane Abbott, Iain Duncan Smith and Michael Gove appearing to make their political points. Unsurprisingly, the disenfranchisement of youth rises to the top, while the proportionality of sentencing – when compared with MPs fiddling expenses and bankers wrecking the economy – is called into question.

Clearly two hours is not long enough to solve the social problems of a nation that may or may not lie behind this summer’s civil unrest. But there are enough intelligent, engaging, thoughtful voices brought together on the stage to start the cogs whirring and to make it clear that doing nothing is not an option. It is just a shame that some key voices seemed to be missing.

MA

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