Political intrigue with superbly engaging performance from Richard Hansell
This article is from 2012.
Kemble's Riot recreates 66 nights of rioting in 1809 when the Covent Garden Theatre increased its ticket prices. With the audience drafted in as the rioters, split pro- or anti- theatre manager John Kemble, sitting on the fence is not an option.
Moving between comical renditions of the period's acting style, the political motivations of the rioters and Kemble's role in it all, Adrian Bunting offers a thought-provoking take on the relationship between performer and audience that manages to be relevant to the current obsession with celebrity without being preachy.
The pitfalls of audience participation are avoided with a skilfull combination of interactive elements that invite the audience to examine their own views and a superbly engaging central performance by Richard Hansell as the equally adored and reviled Kemble. In the event of a recalcitrant audience it has the power to stand on its own merits. Even if the revolution doesn't leave the theatre, for an hour it's fun to be on the side of the rabble-rousers.