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The Belarus Free Theatre

'Being Harold Pinter' by the Belarus Free Theatre, at the WT, April 2007

Since 1994, the dictatorship of Alexander Lukashenko has criminalised such basic human rights as free speech and assembly in public places in Belarus. Various individuals in the artistic community have been jailed or ‘disappeared’ for voicing their dissent.  Political killings and kidnappings have also become a tool of the state for silencing the population at large. It is within this context that the Belarus Free Theatre began using performance to break a culture of silence in Belarus.

As stated on the Belarus Free Theare’s website, dramatug.org, there are several factors inhibiting the democratic function of theatre in Belarus:

  • All theatres are state-owned. All main directors and art managers are appointed by Ministry of Culture and approved by the head of state. Ministry of Culture issued a Law on Censorship. Two thirds of theatres repertoire is pirated ones.
  • Theatres fear to stage plays about the present-day situation in Belarus: over the past 7 years there was performed not a single such play. There is main demand among modern dramaturgy for the ideologically moderate historic dramaturgic texts and kids’ fairy-tales. Therefore, the majority of dramatists are writing “for future” harboring no illusions that their plays will be theatrically performed soon.
  • In Belarus there is no normal dramaturgic infrastructure: no web-sites about the Belarusian dramaturgy, no educational programs, no festivals of Belarusian dramaturgy, a miserable number of projects, aimed at finding the new plays. The Belarusian dramatists are stripped of an access to information, which is important to them. Also it negatively impacts the modern Belarusian dramaturgy that the foreign theatrical specialists are also deprived of information about the state of affairs in the Belarusian dramaturgy. De facto there are no translations of the Belarusian plays into other languages, which brings yet another isolation of the Belarusian drama within the framework of the undeveloped and hostile Belarusian market that is finding itself under ever increasing ideological pressure of the state.

The Belarus Free Theatre has toured extensively across Europe, North America, and the UK raising awareness of the political situation in Belarus with their plays: Generation Jeans, Being Harold Pinter, Zone of Silence and Discover Love.

Please join us for an evening in support of the Free Theatre’s artistic vision, and political activism as we screen the documentary ‘Staging a Revolution’by directors Albina Kovalyova and Matthew Charles.

7.30pm

Wednesday November 16, 2011

Studio One, Workshop Theatre

University of Leeds

Film trailer:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=toe-5URyPjE

Reviews of the Belarus Free Theatre:

‘Truly passionate, truly political theater.’ – Ben Brantley, The New York Times

‘They have a stunning vocal and physical command, performing with ease and urgency material that combines both verbatim and physical theatre.’ – British playwright Mark Ravenhill

‘Though the company’s means are very limited, their visual invention is striking.’ – 5-star review by Michael Billington, The Guardian

For more information on the political situation in Belarus please see:

http://www.europeanforum.net/country/belarus

For information on the Free Theatre’s political campaign with Index on Censorship visit:

Zoneofsilence.org