The Minsk-based performance group Belarus Free Theatre made their much-anticipated Australian debut with Being Harold Pinter at the Sydney Festival, and this work took on a great poignancy following Harold Pinter's recent death on Christmas Eve. Much of the excitement around this company’s work derives from its political context. Described by producer Natalia Koliada as “Europe’s last dictatorship”, Belarus under President Alexander Lukashenko is very far from a safe place to create political theatre. In a nation where every aspect of life, including artistic practice, is strictly regulated, Belarus Free Theatre work underground to produce uncensored accounts of life under the totalitarian regime. Co-founded in 2005 by Koliada and her husband Nikolai Khalezin, a playwright and journalist, the Belarus Free Theatre has created 11 productions, and regularly travels internationally, drawing attention to the plight of their homeland. For their efforts in daring to imagine a free and democratic Belarus, their audiences in Minsk have been arrested, performances broken up by armed police, actors denied exit visas, artists threatened and assaulted, writers banned from production and company members and their families fired from State-run institutions.
Read the rest of my article, published in the print and online editions of RealTime #89, here.