Two-man show finds the funny in last year's riots - but it's not the looters that get the laughs

Two-man show finds the funny in last year's riots - but it's not the looters that get the laughs

Two-man show finds the funny in last year's riots - but it's not the looters that get the laughs

First published in Theatre by

Now the windows have been refitted and stocks replenished, few reminders remain of the riots that raged through Enfield, Tottenham and Wood Green just seven months ago.

Politicians and the media have been quick to put the matter to bed: this was a freak occurrence created by criminals and thugs, something we’ve learnt from that will never happen again.

“It’s a really lame explanation,“ explains Alex Parsonage, director of a new show that delves deep into what caused the widespread mayhem. “Now we’ve got a bit of distance we can say, maybe there’s a bit more to it...“

Rioting For Dummies is a two-man show from acclaimed fringe theatre company Finger In The Pie. The high-energy comedy questions the easy explanations many have been quick to accept.

“It’s like when you have a bad student party and see the photos on Facebook,“ says Alex, the company’s artistic director who, living in Wood Green, ’experienced the riots in surround sound’. “You all laugh and say ’look how crazy we are, but don’t worry that doesn’t reflect who we are as people – it’s all going to be fine again’.

“In the aftermath, politicians were quick to say it was a one off, almost play down its importance completely. Enfield Town Centre has been redone and you wouldn’t know it had happened. It’s almost as though everyone is happy with a group amnesia.“

“Mindless criminality has become a response that’s not acceptable and actually quite irritating,“ says Rob Witcomb, one half of the on-stage double-act formed with fellow performer Robin Clyfan.

“A lot of comedians, even ones I admire, have gone ’ah look at the mindless stupidity of stealing a pack of basmati rice’. No one has really gone that extra distance.“

The trio toiled through reams of government and newspaper reports, reading testimonies and interviews to reveal what really caused the unprecedented looting and violence.

In their new home at Millfield House in Edmonton, the team, who specialise in devised theatre (where the script is formed through improvisation), thrashed out their ideas to find the funny among the sobering summaries and statistics.

The result promises to be a satirical and surreal show with spadefuls of slapstick. Robin and Rob take the roles of an academic lecturing on the riots and a student hoping to learn about their methods.

“Despite the fact it’s got that incredibly serious starting point the show is a lot of fun,“ says Alex. “It’s also an excuse for lots of nudity and gags...“

“There’s a talking belly,“ adds Robin, “and lots of smashing things. It’s classic double-act stuff, straight man and fool“

Being able to perform the show in Enfield, at the heart of the riots, was especially important to the trio.

“It’s important to matter,“ says Robin. “As much as it seemed like a big, passionate, impenetrable debate, sometimes just attempting to respond to it is a good thing.“

An anarchic hour of mayhem awaits audiences who are expected to share a similar reaction that Alex had to the riots.

“It was something I’d never experienced before,“ he remembers, “it was bloody frightening but exhilarating at the same time.“

Rioting For Dummies is at The Dugdale Centre, London Road, Enfield from February 29 to March 3 at 8pm. Details: 020 8807 6680

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