Minsk 2011: A reply to Kathy Acker, Young Vic - review
Forced underground by the repressive regime of Alexander Lukashenko this noble organisation has brought with it a startling snapshots from one of Europe’s least well-known capitals
There’s an old, favourite game to play when leafing through British theatre programmes: how many of the cast have been in The Bill? In the case of Belarus Free Theatre, however, the search takes on a grim tone: “He was detained for his professional activities” is the line to look for now. This noble organisation, founded in 2005, has been forced underground by the repressive regime of Alexander Lukashenko, with its members regularly persecuted, imprisoned and harried into exile.
The fact that they have made it to the Young Vic as part of this year’s LIFT is thus a huge reason to cheer. Yet they bring with them startling snapshots from one of Europe’s least well-known capitals, a place they continue to cherish despite everything. The play’s subtitle, A Reply to Kathy Acker, acknowledges their debt to the American writer who examined New York society via sexual identity, an investigation BFT under adaptor/director Vladimir Shcherban attempts to carry out on their homeland.
In a repressive state — all gay clubs in Minsk have been closed down — everything is driven underground. In hidden places, things erupt in bursts of creativity or violence. The nine-strong cast conjures up the throbbing atmosphere of an illicit club, a workers’ canteen by day, where sex of all kinds is on offer. This highly-policed regime is also not above a healthy trade in “erotic” dancing.
There’s a sense of pulsing frustration from the talented cast but the most poignant section comes last, when the actors offer simple first-person confessions. It’s glory at the Young Vic in June, but what awaits them in Minsk in July?
Fiona Mountford, Evening Standard, 18 June 2012