This year’s Luminato Festival has an obvious political theme, but RIOT is where even the coldest human truths will be served to you on a platter alongside Glee-style hits, neon spandex and graceful aerialists.
There is no doubt that the cast of RIOT thoroughly enjoy taking the piss out of everyone in the audience. The concept for the show is a bit of an 80s themed, futuristic, sexy cabaret. Costumes ranged from Gaga-inspired coats and disco-balls to neon spandex and an impressively saran-wrapped Jesus. The show itself included a dazzling array of aerial routines, using hoops and silks, acrobatics, modernized Irish dancing, spoken word and comedy.
The cast features the comedic stylings of The Queen of Ireland Panti Bliss who presided over the eclectic evening as ring-leader, providing a necessary thread of continuity throughout this mish-mash of performances.
One of the highlights of the night came from the hilarious and subversive duo, the Lords of Strut. These two play two idiotic brothers who think they are celebrities, but everything they do is an absolute disaster, at the same time they do kick ass dance routines, and often they’re pretty much naked when they do them.
Another highlight was the aerial performances by ex-footballer Adam Brady. His provocative, tongue-in-cheek performances were mesmerizing and stood out throughout the night.
The Celtic dance-pop duo Up and Over It reimagined classic Irish footwork, mixing it into quirky street scenes. Their energy and skill kept the crowd thoroughly pumped.
Kate Brennan stole the scene each time she came on stage, captivating the audience with Emmet Kirwan’s feminist infused, spoken word on topics ranging from poverty to abortion. Her presence grounded RIOT and kept the show from drifting too far into bubble-gum pop delirium. She was a critical anchor in this high-energy show.
Megan Riordan, best known for Once-The Musical, had a moment during the evening that allowed the audience to join in her song. It involved a planned power outage that inspired us to light up the stage with cell-phone torches. Unfortunately, the two people in the room using actual lighters made more of an impact than her song, which slowed down the pace of the show a bit too much.
Overall, RIOT is a fun night out and definitely worth seeing.
RIOT created and directed by Jennifer Jennings and Phillip McMahon (THISISPOPBABY/Luminato).
Location: Festival Cabaret Room, Canadian Opera Company (227 Front East).
Runs to June 16. $39-$60.37.