Founded 2005, the Belarus Free Theatre is a company whose main goal is to “break through stereotypes of the Belarusian population that are imposed by the ideological system of Belarusian dictatorial regime.”In Belarus, the group isn’t the government’s cup of tea. Founder, Nikolai Khalezin says, “The directors and creative directors are appointed by the Ministry of Culture. The performances are censored, the programs are old and musty. We want to offer an alternative, a modern theatre that discusses social problems with a degree of creative freedom.” The group is forced to perform in bistros, cafes, apartments or even in the woods. But these places eventually get discovered. After being arrested at a rally in 2010, co-founder Natalia Koliada was even threatened with rape and murder whilst in the back of a police van.
Earlier in November, in honor of the company’s 10th anniversary, the group presented a two-week long festival called Staging A Revolution in London at the Young Vic. For the first week, audiences attended secret performances in undisclosed locations that were only found through text messages sent the day before the performance. And in the second week, the company returned “home” to the Young Vic.
I find the “revolution” extremely interesting and provocative especially for English audiences to see. Audiences of Staging A Revolution experience the conditions of a group of artists who are constantly forced to create work under dictatorial control and for the audience, the stakes aren’t real. But at the same time, the audience’s journey with the company, the post-show discussions, and the intimacy of the first week of the festival challenged the group to see the blend of theatre into their real lives.