London: Eurepica. Challenge.
To July 26, 2011 (London)
August – Edinburgh Festival
London N1 1TA
7.30pm, mat Sat 2.30pm
Runs: 2 ½ hrs with interval
TICKETS 020 7359 4404 (24 hours)
In person: 10am-7.30pm (Mon-Sat)
Review by Carole Woddis of performance seen July 23, 2011
Exploring the banality of today’s words and slogans
Sometimes it’s salutary to be reminded what we’ve lost and what we take for granted here in the UK. For Belarus Free Theatre, their work, their survival as individuals and their resistance to the state are all intertwined. As a company, the power of their work is also a reminder of what alternative theatre should really be about – shock – and how it can be produced with style, sophistication and humour.
Three years ago, Belarus brought Being Harold Pinter to London’s Soho Theatre. Excerpts of his plays were interleaved with Pinter’s own words about the search for truth. Marvelling at the very unEnglish energy, passion and emotional urgency of the Belarus company, it was, exhilaratingly like discovering Pinter completely afresh.
Now they have been here again, as part of the short but engagingly different Almeida Festival in a piece that roams through Europe using 12 writers.
For a company whose raison d’etre is to raise the curtain on human rights abuses of repression, torture and political disappearances being carried out in their country, the style is surprisingly jaunty.
We’re welcomed `aboard’ by a cast themselves international in range, and dressed as an in-flight cabin crew. From there, we are whisked across Europe through Romania, Latvia, Poland, France, Spain, Turkey, France, Italy etc in stories that touch on repression and injustice but without dogma or declamatory rhetoric preferring visual and physical metaphor, satire and surrealism.
Turkey’s Ozen Yula, for example, debunks the usual lazy national female stereotype (this is a company that delights in its women performers) in a black and white masked sequence created by the performer’s two white `socked’, moustache-bearing `puppet’ feet.
Belarus Theatre’s own Nikolai Khalezin uses the squeezing, slicing and dissection of a water melon to make his point about his country’s plight whilst Macedonian playwright, Goran Stefanovski stands the idea of reinvention on its head with a brilliantly effective example of one man’s `adaptation’ from post-communism to fully paid up European with repetition of the same words. `That was then, this is now’, tells you everything you need to know about the banality and emptiness of words and slogans in today’s western society. Vibrant, inspirational theatre.
Executive Producer: Natalia Koliada
Dramaturg/Writer/Producer: Nikolai Khalezin
Vladimir Shcherban: Director
Anders Duus: Sweden
Viacheslav Durnenkov: Russia
Paul Jenkins: UK
Aaron Landsman: USA
Angelica LIddel: Spain
Alexei Scherbak: Latvia
Peca Stefan: Romania
Goran Stefanovski: Macedonia
Jean-Pierre Thibaudat: France
Michal Walczak: Poland
Özen Yula: Turkey
Nikolai Khalezin: Belarus
Laur Biarzhanin (DJ Laurel): Sound Manager/remix of main theme
Composer: Sergei Nevski
Viktoriya Biran: Costume
Art Harley Davidson: Sound and Lighting
Aliaksei Naranovich: Assistant Director
Svetlana Sugako: Assistant Director
Rima Ushkevich: Assistant Director
Nikita Volodko: Assistant Art Director
An exhibition and foyer installation accompanied this performance.
Andrey Dubinin: Letters: Courage and Pain is a selection of photos that chart the Lukashenko government response to a peaceful demonstration in Minsk on Dec 19, 2010 by photographer Andrey Dubinin. Part of a larger exhibition currently touring other European capital cities.
Sec_rity is not complete without U
features a foyer installation by Holly Waddington & The Militia Canteen (Hannah Hewetson and Nemonie Craven) and is described as a `direct response’ to Eurepica. Challenge
After the Almeida performances, Belarus Free Theatre can be seen in Edinburgh, Aug 22 – 29, 1pm, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh. 0131 556 6550. www.pleasance.co.uk