Friday, August 17, 2012

Pussy Riot Verdict

Reading at Royal Court Theatre; photo by Val Phoenix
So, we now know what value the Russian authorities put on disrupting the address of God: two years.

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".

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Pussy Riot Day of Action on Friday

Friday afternoon is when the verdict in the Pussy Riot trial is to be announced. Free Pussy Riot has announced a global day of action, which, at last count, numbers 61 cities!

Among the activities are readings from the trial transcript, protests outside Russian embassies and consulates and flashmobs. Please check the website and get involved!

Here is a contribution from Peaches and friends, shot in Berlin:

Free Pussy Riot! #freepussyriot from Peaches on Vimeo.

Monday, August 06, 2012

Margate Cartival

Margate Sands; photo by Val Phoenix
Margate beach; photo by Val Phoenix
Sun, sea, sand, cross-dressing.... Yes, Margate's got it all, or at least did on my day trip yesterday, which happened to coincide with a soul weekend and Carnival! Well-timed.

As was my trip to see the shiny, new Olympic-branded Turner Contemporary, site of enfant terrible Tracey Emin's homecoming exhibit, And She Lay Down Deep Beneath the Sea. Ironic to see Emin brought in to help regenerate her hometown, which produced so many terrible experiences for her growing up and was the spur to much of her early art.

Here she is in more or less placid form, working through her Blue Period of nude figures. The figures are her, of course, and are mostly reclining with arched backs. Her work is juxtaposed with that of Rodin and Turner, but in a way I found unconvincing. Actually, I didn't find any of the drawings particularly engaging, as those of the men seemed objectifying and Emin's were too porny for my taste. Interestingly, a lot of children were visiting, and the boys ran away from the drawings, giggling. One has to ask: why bring children to a show that is warned as being of adult nature? And if you do bring them, why not use the opportunity to discuss the isses and perhaps educate the kids, eh? No, that didn't happen.

Much more intriguing was Lindsay Seers' installation, Entangled, shown in a secret location in order to enhance its insular, immersive qualities. OK, it was just a shed at the back, but being led into a room and handed wireless headphones while staring at two white orbs did pique one's curiosity about what was to follow. And seeing two male impersonators at work on local music hall stages was a win-win for me. Interestingly, the two figures cited as inspiration for these women were Hetty King, about whom I know little, and Vesta Tilley, whom I discovered while researching my Cabaret Special. I found some old wax cylinders that had been digitised and was able to play one of her numbers. So, it was a treat to see what she looked like in her role as "Britain's Foremost Male Impersonator". Much to ponder here, and the orbs worked wonderfully as screens. It was its last day, though, so you've missed it.

Later I picked my way through the Carnival, which made its way up the hill past the gallery, bearing such luminaries as Miss Herne Bay and so forth. I made my way to the beautiful golden sands, wiggled my toes in the incoming surf and found myself mesmerised by the beauty of the sky meeting the sea. Nature still puts on the best show.