Rising review: the revolution will be Spotified

Talented DYT performers don’t shut up, and play their protest hits in this shuffle through their causes and concerns

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Date Reviewed: June 19th, 2019

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Fri, Aug 19, 2016, 16:15

   

***

Peacock Theatre, Dublin

There’s an obvious irony whenever art and protest tangle: the songs to stir the barricades are eventually made downloadable, the slogans and placards that drive a march will also adorn a dorm-room poster or a T-shirt. Radicalism is always chic.

This charmingly staged production from DublinYouth Theatre (DYT), inspired by the role of young people in the 1916 Rising, is a verbatim docudrama based on loose, new interviews and historical material, set almost completely to live covers of familiar protest music. It is a cascade of political positions, like a Spotify playlist on shuffle.

The revolution will not be dramatised; instead director Tom Creed and writer Helena Enright have compiled some of its highlights. As a 20-strong cast of young people declare a litany of personal beliefs via a downstage microphone (“I believe in change.” “I believe in love.” “I believe in God.” “Myself.”), the painstaking authenticity of Sarah Jane Shiels’s set, plywood walls and practical lights, suggests an encounter with something close to the truth. But whose truth is it?

As soon as one performer speaks of witnessing 9/11 and enlisting in the army, the gap between word and deed opens into a gulf. When these interviews have been conducted by others, edited by others, and represent the voices of others, that is less docudrama than karaokedrama.

This may be the desired form, one that advances no political position of its own but instead tries to adumbrate all political positions: equality, LGBT rights, feminism, Black Lives Matter, repeal the eighth, protect the rights of the unborn, Trumpism, radical Islam, animal rights, you name it. With appropriate yet constant songs by Tracey Chapman, Joan Jett, Public Enemy, PIL, Bikini Kill, all well-played by talented performers, protest and muzak are lacquered into “Prozak”, something entirely aesthetic and generally uplifting, like Up With People for Millennials.

This displays the DTYers as very competent actors, within a handsomely conceived performance, although it does not treat them as agents. Given the subject matter, age and activism, its hard not to draw some sobering conclusions. Revolutions happen when people unite themselves, gathered around shared ideals or injustices, to use whatever means, non-violent or otherwise, to fulfil their aims. But what happens if you are addled by pullulating causes, thinly articulated, cascading down the face of a social media feed? Maybe you just play the hits.

Ends Aug 20