Ireland's best known drag queen and gay rights activist Panti Bliss is coming to Australia with a show that combines drag, dance, circus and comedy.
RIOT is a spectacle that boasts an all-star Irish cast and sold every ticket available at 2016 Dublin Fringe, won Best Production and broke box-office records. Panti and RIOT coming to Sydney Festival and Arts Centre Melbourne is particularly apt following the recent same sex marriage vote here.
The self-described accidental activist played a major role in the successful referendum campaign for Marriage Equality in Ireland.
"I was following it very closely," Panti told The Irish Echo of the recent postal plebiscite. "It was a slightly odd experience to be watching it from Ireland because, having gone through the exact same excruciating debate in the run up to our referendum on marriage equality, we knew exactly what you were going through and how emotionally draining it could be.
"And it was also a bit like going back in time watching it all unfold, because the exact same arguments were being made - sometimes word for word! - that we had heard ad nauseam in 2015.
"Like many interested members of the LGBTI community here, I watched the results live on the internet and it was quite emotional! Reliving the joy and relief we felt in Ireland as we heard the results of our own vote."
Rooted in the Irish traditions of poetry, oratory, Irish dance and song, then deconstructed using musical, electro, striptease, drag and pop culture, RIOT is a theatrical gut-punch. It is a love letter of hope to the future and a clarion call on the state of the world today.
Panti is well known to Australian audiences. Her 2016 one-woman-show High Heels in Low Places racked up stellar reviews and packed houses in Australia as well as Ireland, UK, Europe and USA.
Is she looking forward to getting back down under? "Am I?! Does Pauline Hanson make poor fashion choices??
I'm lucky enough to get to go to Australia most years and, even better, usually during our looooong Irish winter! It's so nice to get away to Aussie sun just as I'm getting totally fed up of the cold and damp, and by the time I get back, the winter is nearly over! But this year, after the Yes vote, I'm looking forward to it even more than usual."
Joining Panti on stage are Street Performance World Champions and unlikely heroes of Britain’s Got Talent, The Lords of Strut. These spandex adorned lads are on a mission to change the world with a dose of dance, acrobatics and a big old measure of slapstick. Multi-award winning dance duo Philip Connaughton and Deirdre Griffin roll out some thumping jigs whilst Megan Riordan, the star of the Tony Award winning Once The Musical (Dublin) and Ronan Brady, the Gaelic football player who ran away to join the circus, add to the sensational line up.
Rounding out the cast is Kate Brennan, RIOT’S street corner poet delivering the emotive words and rhymes of Emmet Kirwan including those from Heartbreak, which became an award-winning short film, along with the show’s ‘Sirens’ vocalists Alma Kelliher, Adam Matthews and Nicola Kavanagh. In addition, a surprise local guest artist will join the cast each night of the season.
It is not like Panti has not been to Australia before but this show is completely different: "But usually it's just me with my one-woman shows so this time will be very different (and I suspect even more fun) going with a big cast of brilliant, fun performers - many of whom have never been to Oz before.
"I think Australian audiences are going to LOVE this show. It was actually conceived as a show about Ireland but the themes are universal. It's got real heart, but is also a high octane spectacle. It's a noisy, glittery, raucous show that incorporates theatre, cabaret, circus, and music, and it will have you howling laughing one moment and the very next moment will break your heart. It's a wild fun party that sends you home with lots to think about. And I'm in it, so.... bound to be amazing, right? RIGHT??!! Right.
"Melbourne is one of my favourite cities in the world and the beautiful Arts Centre Melbourne is one of my favourite venues to perform in, so I'd be excited to return there under any circumstances. But returning there with this wildly talented cast, in this spectacularly entertaining show that we're all so proud of, is almost too much excitement for this old show pony! And then on top of that we get to welcome a different special guest into the cast every night! I may have to lie down till the palpitations pass."