Belarus Free Theatre: Staging a Revolution

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Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) is marking its tenth anniversary with Staging a Revolution, a string of shows across London. Last week saw them hosting plays in secret locations around the City, the venues announced only on the day of their show, which is the hallmark of how they must operate in their homeland.

But this week sees BFT take up residency at their London home – the Young Vic Theatre – for a run of three shows. Tickets are already sold out so if you want to catch them, you’ll have to call the Box Office on the day for returns!

Time of Women

KGB interrogations, fear for family members left exposed on the outside, and the solidarity of finding comradeship in the darkest of places…

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Based on the recollections of women who have been political prisoners in Belarus, Time of Women follows three women pushed together in a single cramped cell in the KGB prison in Minsk, and it is both a painful study on what Belarusians have to endure just for simple acts as attending peaceful protests or distributing flyers.

But it is also a heart-warming study in how these women take strength from each other, how they lean on each other, to somehow stay sane and hopeful when it seems all hope is lost.

There were some beautiful moments in this production directed by Nicolai Khalezin, such as a smart use of surveillance cameras as we watch the women gossip and cry in their cells.

And I particularly loved the team-bonding in their daily routine where the women will create makeshift partitions around the toilet to enable privacy when one of them needs to go – and how they all sing loudly and boisterously to cover any embarrassing sounds.

You just wanted to reach out and hug these women for having that kind of compassion and foresight to take on such simple tasks to make all of them feel just that little bit more human.

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There were a few wrinkles that could do with being ironed out. The vocal projection from the actors needs to be improved. One, in particular, was barely audible. Though English surtitles are projected on the walls, there is an attraction to hearing it in Belarusian, to feel the rhythm and the emotional emphasis in the text.

So when a few gremlins snuck into the projection of the surtitles, I wasn’t too bothered as, at that point, it was quite evident from the performances on stage what was happening and what was being conveyed.

A tender play on the harshness of prison – and how refreshing to see it from a woman’s point of view.

King Lear

Performed in Belarusian with surtitles, BFT take on Shakespeare’s great play about the challenges and importance of speaking truth to power.  This show will be performed on November 11th and 12th.

Being Harold Pinter

How is a play born? Should an artist be involved with politics? Incorporating testimonies from Belarusian political prisoners with excerpts from Pinter’s lifetime of writings, Being Harold Pinter begins and ends with a search for the answers to these questions. This show will be performed on November 13th and 14th.

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