“The Riots” brings the English summer riots back to life

Frustrated, lost, confused, angry, opportunists: That’s how most of the witnesses of the English riots over the summer described the rioters as.

But for Mohamed Hammoudan, who saw his house burning in the riots, they were “just angry people.”

It’s how Hammoudan’s character sums up the unrest in the play “The Riots” currently being performed at London’s Tricycle Theatre.

The play chronicles several stories from different standpoints—from eyewitness accounts to the rioters, community leaders, police, MPs and people who were merely the victims of the riots.

Director Nicolas Kent, talking to University of Westminster’s journalism students just before the play, said “The Riots” narrates the stories of about 60 characters who were involved in the riots and were personally interviewed to be portrayed in the play.

Since the British government has refused a public inquiry into the riots, Kent said that he “uses theatre to call attention on [such] issues.”

“It gets people’s attention,” he said.

And “The Riots” does grasp people’s attention. Through each and every story, you tend to understand what the riots meant to different people in the society, how it affected them, and up to a certain extent how did it all start.

“People are speaking as they were speaking to us,” Kent said of the characters in the play—the way they are living the characters on stage.

“The Riots” thus sums up and simplifies 50 hours worth of tape in about two hours of play. And it does that successfully.

Kent, who is known for his political plays, has directed plays on national and international issues spanning from Northern Ireland to Darfur and Afghanistan.

Political plays and theatres, according to him, are “like a living newspaper.”

But at the same time, Kent, whose next venture is about nuclear weapons, says that he doesn’t direct these plays as a campaign. He wants people to understand the issues.

In “The Riots,” he says, it will help viewers to stand in the characters’ shoes and look at the riots from someone else’s perspective.

“I’ve chosen to do it [the play] because it’s an important issue and the government should have led an inquiry,” Kent said.

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