In 2012 the infamous Russian protest group Pussy Riot staged a rebellious impromptu performance inside a Moscow cathedral. This forty second act of rebellion against the Russian regime saw members Nadya Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina arrested, paraded through the courts in front of the world’s press and finally carted off for two years hard labour.

This immersive production by Les Enfants Terribles asks audience members to walk through and experience this process. Forced into wearing a bleak prison uniform and balaclava we are first led into the Cathedral of Christ the Saviour. We are encouraged to stage a protest with placards bearing statements on gender equality to wealth distribution. We are then arrested and taken to prison before being taken through a sham court hearing. After sentencing we are sent to a detention camp where we are forced to perform menial and ridiculous tasks under the threatening glare of our captors. After a brief spell in solitary confinement we finally emerge an hour later rather ironically into the privilege and safety of the Saatchi Gallery in Sloane Square.

The concept is fantastic, the story fascinating, the sets are detailed and the performers committed and effective. However, despite so much potential it is merely entertaining as opposed to packing a theatrical punch which it desperately tries to do. There was no sense of real danger or discomfort and like any immersive theatre so much pivots on the willingness of the audience to engage. Ours was a rather polite group but there was one dissenter who refused to take part as his own little act of rebellion. This could have been a fantastic opportunity for performers to really convey the sense of danger and oppression of a totalitarian state but it was unfortunately overlooked.

For a production which bills itself as ‘not for the faint hearted’ it is a more relaxed affair which is a shame. However, it is a unique theatrical experience which brings to light a fascinating story of courage and the freedom of speech. Sat in our solitary cell, we listen via headphones to a recording of Tolokonnikova as she urges us to take advantage of our right to speak out, a basic human right that is denied to many. In our politically unstable climate it’s a powerful reminder that we should. And we must.

Inside Pussy Riot plays at the Saatchi Gallery until 24 December.

Words by Matthew Hyde