The Riots, by Gillian Slovo, is well worth an outing to the Tricycle theatre.
This is the latest in the theatre’s series of verbatim plays, where real life testimony is performed by actors in an attempt to get a rounded view of an issue.
In the case of The Riots, 30 stories are seamlessly woven together. I didn’t know how well it would work—but the end result is enjoyable and compelling.
The voices we hear range from community activist Stafford Scott, through to author Owen Jones, education secretary Michael Gove and also some of the police.
One thing that is missing is the testimony of rioters themselves.
The playwright did attempt to gather their stories but, perhaps understandably, few were willing to come forward to give their version of events.
But this is made up for in part by wall projections of Twitter messages from the riots themselves.
We also see footage from mobile phones and CCTV footage. And we are kept up to speed with a projection of a map of the area.
The verbatim material can limit the ability for the writer to make a coherent argument. But the big issues do come up.
We are given a chronological account of the night that sparked the riots in Tottenham.
This begins with the shooting of Mark Duggan, goes through the march to the police station to demand answers and shows the police reaction to this.
There are also discussions over the use of violence. One character is based on a man living above Allied Carpets the night it was burnt down.
There are no moral conclusions to the play. But it does end with a set of statistics that allude to the real reasons for the rioting. These include the high percentage of those arrested who come from deprived areas.
The Riots might not offer anything new to those living where they occurred, or to any on the left that have attempted a level of analysis deeper that the mainstream press.
But it will certainly provide food for thought for many others.
The Riots is at the Tricycle Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London, until 10 December