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RIOT (Panti Bliss, Sydney Festival)

8 January 2018 | 10:20 am | Sam Baran

"Quite simply, a fabulous spectacle."

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RIOT is, quite simply, a fabulous spectacle. Veteran Irish drag queen Panti Bliss has gathered together a crew of high-energy performers for ninety minutes of high-octane comedy, circus and some serious spoken word.

Amongst the acts of this loud, proud revue, there's an Irish whistle, two 80's-obsessed Lords of Strut (and boy, do they live up to their name), a pinstriped choir and a musclebound aerialist in a blue and pink leotard, stripping down while he flies gracefully through the air.

With such a raucous diversity of talents on offer, RIOT is a wild joyride of a show, with an abundance of absurd charm. One moment you're reeling from two people tap dancing with oversized pink balloons pulled over their heads only to find audience members climbing onstage to thwack a man posing as Jesus with pool noodles. True to Panti Bliss's reputation as a gay rights activist, the disparate acts share just one unifying theme: being really, incredibly, unapologetically gay, and having a great time doing it.

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For all the madness in RIOT, the pace is measured. Breaks for the audience to catch their breath arrive in the form of Panti Bliss' exquisitely political solo comedy and Emmet Kirwan's rhythmic spoken word creations, delivered while he spins and gesticulates his way furiously across the stage.

Steeped in the good feelings of Australia's same-sex marriage decision and tempered with the anger of artists crushed beneath capitalism's heel, RIOT reignites the urge for revolution. Love and community flow fast and free in what may be the campest and most entertaining way to start 2018.

Sydney Festival presents RIOT until 28 Jan at Magic Mirrors Spiegeltent, Meriton Festival Village, Hyde Park.