It may act as a sad indictment of the limited attention span of the modern news cycle but the 2011 London Riots feel like they belong to a different era. People talk about the Poll Tax Riots but we seem to collectively forget that just four years ago large parts of London were filled with anger, frustration and nameless faces howling their protest against the body politic. Deprivation and opportunity came together in a furious explosion of pent-up energy. London burned. Not metaphorically but actually. Shops, homes and even our cultural treasures turned to ash (Back catalogues from Rough Trade, Warp and Ninja Tunes, alongside Nick Park original figures, can be countered among those lost to the destruction).
The story has been told, but not well and not often. Song of Riots gives us a version that is relevant and theatrical without feeling didactic. It is not here to preach, it is not here to understand. It tells stories unrelated to the riots but intrinsically understands the root causes. It is of life now but it tells a timeless tale.
It hones in on the idea of frustrated masculinity. In the more deprived areas of inner-London we have a generation of young men growing up without the job opportunities afforded to their parents. In London there are always hundreds of jobs, but they are not for the unskilled and under-educated. Young men live in a consumerist society in one of the wealthiest cities in the world and yet their existence goes unnoticed and unspoken.
Lucy Maycock has focused on the link between folk myth and modern life, and weaves the relatively unknown Grimm Brothers tale of Iron Hans into an exploration of what it is to become a man in London. It is co-directed with Chrisopher Sivertsen (Song of the Goat – and responsible for the remarkable Songs of Lear), and between them having created a wonderfully dynamic work that fuses dance, live music and storytelling.