TIME OF WOMEN
by Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada.
Young Vic (The Maria) 66 The Cut SE1 8LZ
Till 14 November 2015.
Runs 1hr 20min No interval.
TICKETS: 020 7922 2922.
Review: Carole Woddis 10 November.
Catch them while you can: this Staging a Revolution Festival’s on till Saturday.
Theatre can be a fantastic teacher. It’s hard for British theatre audiences to comprehend the sacrifices made by artists and writers in the name of free speech and artistic expression. Apart from the occasional politically charged cancelled performance – Gurpreet Kaur Bhatti’s Behzti (2004), Jim Allen’s Perdition in 1987 and a handful of others considered too pro-Israel or anti-semitic – since censorship ended in 1968, British theatre has sailed along concerned only where the next funding axe might fall or what star-rating the latest show might garner. We don’t know the half of it.
In the 1980s we were educated about apartheid by plays from South Africa. Since then, it has been Palestinians and most frequently the Belarus Free Theatre, now staging a two-week festival in one of their most ambitious visits to date, appearing in different, sometimes secret, `underground’ venues, live-streaming on social media, who are educating us afresh.
Time of Women (interestingly developed at Falmouth’s University of Music and Theatre Arts) graphically recounts the story of three brave female journalists and human rights campaigners – Irina Khalip, Natalya Radina, Nasta Palazhanka – imprisoned by the authorities, noting in parenthesis that after it was first performed in a Belarusian apartment block, the company lost the apartment as a performance space.
Using video-cam and stage interrogation, Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada’s production exerts a strange visceral sense of both actuality and surrealism about the women’s reconstructed time in a prison cell. As Khalip (a gaunt Maryia Sazonaya), dubbed a ring-leader by their KGB interrogator, on her top bunk-bed describes it, ”It’s like lying in a coffin.”
In between, Colonel Orlov (Kiryl Kanstantsinau), by turns terrifying and cajoling, attempts to break the women down, typically, through mental torture with reference to their loved ones – mothers, husbands, family.
Once again, it’s a story that brings home the banality (and cruelty) of state repression but exemplifies the extraordinary resilience of women who find strength in solidarity even as privacy (toiletries are carried out behind a white sheet) is sacrificed
Poignantly, what is most recalled – and missed – are the simple things, smells, a mother’s dumplings, their homeland.
Performers: Kiryl Kanstantsinau, Maryia Sazonava, Yana Rusakevich, Maryna Yurevich.
Director: Nicolai Khalezin.
Costume: Alesya Malakhovskaya.
Lighting/Video: William Reynolds
Sound Technician: Jamie McIntyre
Translation: Yuri Kaliada
Surtitles: Nadia Brodskaya
Developed at Falmouth University’s Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (AMATA).
Time of Women was first performed on 19 December 2014 underground in Belarus.
Young Vic performances 9, 10 November 2015 as part of Belarus Free Theatre’s ‘Staging a Revolution’ Festival.