Австралийские хроники. Part I. Позвоните родителям Австралийские хроники. Part II. Shark attack Австралийские хроники. Part III. Театр Австралийские хроники. Part IV. Sydney Festival 2009 Австралийские хроники. Part V. Две святыни Сиднея Австралийские хроники. Part VI. День Австралии…
Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker – review
At the curtain call for this show from Belarus Free theatre, a protester shouted that it was "a political provocation". He went on, before clumping noisily out, to declare that it was also an assault on his beloved Belarus. He was right the first time and wrong the second. For what is extraordinary is the love of country, and in particular the capital city of Minsk, that emerges from this collective portrait of the oppressive tactics of the Lukashenko regime.
The piece takes its title from an earlier show, based on a text by Kathy Acker, about American sexual identity. The theme this time is the nature of sex in a dictatorship, and what shocks you are the double standards applied. Lap dancers are tolerated as long as they have official approval, and prostitutes are deployed to clear the snow-bound streets. At the same time, a gay pride march is savagely broken up, eye contact in the street is illegal and relationships are often poisoned by fear. One performer, talking of wounds inflicted by the police, says some girls find scars sexy. "Welcome to Minsk," he laconically adds, "the sexiest city in the world."
Polemic, however, is not the method of Belarus Free theatre. As anyone who saw Being Harold Pinter will know, they make their points through an exuberant inventiveness. Directed and adapted by Vladmir Shcherban from texts supplied by the actors, the show works like a kaleidoscopic revue. A canteen suddenly turns into a louche underground sex club. Faces peer through upturned plastic chairs to evoke a subway train. A naked woman, sealed in paper like a parcel, defiantly brandishes a whip from inside her casing. But the most moving part of the show is the climax when the actors relate their personal stories. They reveal their deep attachment to home, even though many of them have nothing much to return to: the oldest, a political refugee, describes his exile from his family and how, through his laptop, he manages to create "a virtual Minsk".
This is what makes the show remarkable: it is a cry of protest against a society where even private life is subject to regulation yet, at the same time, is imbued with a nostalgic patriotism and belief in the possibility of a better future. Even at the climax, when the actors talk of the sackings and privations they have endured, they sing a folk song. That is why the protester was wrong. Far from betraying their country, these actors, brought to us by the London international festival of theatre, are speaking of it with badly bruised love.
Michael Billington, The Guardian, Sunday 17 June 2012