|Reading at Royal Court Theatre; photo by Val Phoenix|
This morning, though, the sentence was unknown, though those in the know feared the worst. As we gathered at the Royal Court Theatre in London to hear a pre-verdict protest reading of the accused's closing statements, we had an inkling the news would not be good when it came. After all, not guilty is only the verdict in 1% of Russian trials. Ulp. It was like the world's poshest gig, with people streaming in to sit on the floor, peek over the bannister and around the sides of the small stage. The Royal Court has never seen anything like it, their rep said.
Kerry McCarthy MP, who observed two days of the trial (and live-tweeted!), spoke of her experiences there and how she felt the women were not given a fair shake--they were not allowed to call many of the expert witnesses they had assembled, were not given food during the 12-hour days and so forth. The playwright E.V. Crowe, who had arranged the readings, announced there will be a Pussy Riot symposium in November.
And then on came the actresses, one for each of the accused (though they neglected to identify whose statement was whose). First up was the lengthy statement of Nadezhda Tolokonnikova, read by a woman with a strong northern actress. Her words were eloquent and forceful and delivered in dispassionate tones. Next up was a very posh-sounding woman reading the words of Maria Alekhina. Hers were the most emotional and I felt myself welling up a bit. Lastly, was a rather impish woman reading the statement of Yekaterina Samutsevich, with her declaration that they had already won. Had the audience been a bit less staid, they might have started chanting. I wanted to.
What now? Well, McCarthy told me she would wait to hear the verdict and sentence but thought that there might be some steps the UK government could take. There are already street protests taking place. And the band seem to have had another premonition about what might happen, by releasing a new song, "Putin Lights Up the Fires".