Sunday, 22 February 2009

Belarus Free Theatre: an aesthetic opposition first of all

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.

2 comments:

KNaylor said...

Where does the Belarus Free Theatre get its funding from ?

A company which states it is primarily 'aesthetic opposition' but which claims it will disband as soon as Lukashenko is removed sounds explicitly political.

Lukashenko runs an authoritarian populist regime for sure but it's curious that Harold Pinter was so supportive and is revered so highly.

For Pinter back in 2001 claimed Milosevic was 'unfairly demonised' by the USA and its Western Allies

Milosevic, like Lukashenko, was also classified as a post-communist and nationalist 'dictator'

The Otpor model of 'democracy activism' to get people to vote him out in 2000 and get Milosevic transported to the Hague.

That initiative was funded by the USA and other NGO's, including George Soros who also invested in the Belarus' so-called 'Denim Revolution'in 2006.

It would be interesting to know how the Belarus Free Theatre is funded and whether it has any links to US backed organisations like Charter 97 which promote it.

After all,it's a little bizarre that the theatres main influence and largest production Being Harold Pinter is about a man who detested Washington and its attempt to bring about 'regime change'.

KNaylor said...

Pardon me, that should have read

The Otpor model of 'democracy activism' WAS USED to get people to vote him out in 2000 and get Milosevic transported to the Hague.

Many Otpor activists were in Belarus during the 'Denim Revolution'...