Kemble’s Riot (3 stars)

This article is from 2012.

Adrian Bunting brings infamous 1809 Covent Garden Kemble’s Riot to Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2012

Jacqueline Roberts and Richard Hansell in Adrian Bunting's recreation of the 1809 Covent Garden riots, Kemble's Riot / Andy Suggett

Political intrigue with superbly engaging performance from Richard Hansell

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.

Kemble's Riot

  • 3 stars

Winner, Best Theatre, Brighton Festival 2011. Ever been to a riot? In a theatre? In 1809 Covent Garden was rebuilt after a fire. The actor/manager, John Kemble raised the ticket prices… and the audience rioted for 66 nights. You, the public, exercise your awesome power in Adrian Bunting's inflammatory period play for…


1. claudette tesreins2 Aug 2012, 11:48pm Report

I saw the show and loved it. What fun was had and with a great performance from the lead actor. Highly recommended.

2. Sionadh K3 Aug 2012, 12:44am Report

I also saw the show today. very though-provoking and a clever way to put forward some thoughts about the situation within the arts today. It was great fun with an astonishingly moving and dramatic final major speech from Richard Hansell although all four performances were excellent. Highly recommended and ***** for sure!

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