Panti & The Cast of RIOT-The Show


How it’s New York: Presented by the Irish Arts Center at the Skirball Center at NYU
How it’s Irish:  Created by Irish arts company ThisIsPopBaby and starring a cast of Irish performers

Panti & The Cast of RIOT-The Show Photo courtesy of Ian Douglas

On Thursday February 15th THISISPOPBABY and the Irish Arts Center brought the highly anticipated RIOT-The Show to the Skirball Center for a 3 night run, after wowing audiences in Dublin and Australia.

Entering to array of open silvery umbrellas and pumping disco music, many in the crowd didn’t know what to expect.  What ensued was a thrill ride of music, dance, comedy and spoken word, creating a dystopian world which the creators have populated with the best that Dublin’s arts scene has to offer.

The show features Dublin rap poetry from Emmett Kirwan, hysterical physical comedy and dance from The Lords of Strut (Phillip Connaughton & Cian Kinsella) and Up and Over It (Suzanne Cleary & Peter Harding), a chorus of muses called the Sirens, acrobat and aerialist Ronan Brady and the world renowned gender discombobulist Panti Bliss.

The show is a blast of color, light, sound and humour, but is not without message and meaning.  There are moments of current social commentary in the lyrical rhymes of Mr. Kirwan’s poems;

Emmet Kirwan in RIOT photo courtesy of Ian Douglas


“So this is lyrical stick up

This is a theatrical grenade

If Everybody sits still,

Then nobody gets entertained”


Up and Over it – photo courtesy of Ian Douglas

There is a definitely Irish flavor, not only in the language, but in the music and the dance too.  The dance duo Up and Over It blend traditional dance, hip hop and ballet with a hearty slathering of comedy and even a hand jive to craft tasty routines that kept me on the edge of my seat more than once.  The nearly effortless athleticism of acrobat Ronan Byrne, teasing the audience with his impish sexiness and incredible agility.  He nearly floated onto and off the stage.

Not to give too much away, there are solo turns for nearly everyone and a wonderful auto-biographical story piece from Panti that had the audience in stitches.

There were guest artists for each night and the night we were there it was the author Irvine Welsh, reading from his latest book The Blade Artist.  A stark piece about with his usual edgy characters and dark situations.  A welcome respite from the cotton candy nature of most of the show.

Hopefully this epic production will be back for another spin around the block in New York, plans are already underway for it to come back for a longer run.  In the meantime, let’s all try to take a page out of their book and in the words of Emmet Kirwan, “breathe in the anger and breathe out joy.”



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