Sunday, 27 October 2013

Minsk 2011, Oct 27, 2013 ***1/2

Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker,
Belarus Free Theatre, Melbourne Festival
Fairfax Studio,  Arts Centre Melbourne, Oct 24, 25, 26, 27, 2013
Reviewer: Kate Herbert on Sunday Oct 27 at 3pm 
This short review was not for Herald Sun and is published only on this blog. KH

Although the style and form of Minsk 2011 Belarus Free Theatre is old-fashioned, episodic, political theatre that harks back to the 70s and 80s, it has something compelling to say.

Theatre in many former Soviet countries lost its sharp, critical edge and underground status when those countries no longer suffered political oppression; but this is not the case in Belarus where, according to this production, political oppression is alive and unwell.

In this insane despotism, citizens of Minsk are arrested, abducted or beaten on the street – by police or skinheads – for attending peaceful gatherings, gay pride marches or simply meeting in groups of more than three persons.

The performance depicts individuals attempting to speak into a microphone then retreating in silent fear, only to be abducted by skinheads while old women quietly sweep away any evidence.

In a compelling scene, a young woman rants about Minsk while men paint her black, print images on paper with her inked body then wrap her in a cocoon of paper from which she escapes like an avenging angel, cracking a whip at her abusers.

The most powerful moments are the final scenes when the cast, seated in red plastic chairs, tell their love-hat stories about Minsk: one man is a political refugee who cannot return to his family in Minsk so spends his days in UK in his virtual Minsk while another must return to her child.

 There is love, pain and anguish in this play that emanates from the cast whose passion for their city and sadness at its state are palpable.

By Kate Herbert

Director, Concept & Adaptation: Vladimir Shcherban
Originally produced by: Natalia Kaliada, Nicolai Khalezin, FUEL
Text written & performed by: Viktoryia Biran, Kiryl Kanstantsinau, Siarhei Kvachonak, Pavel Radek-Haradnitski, Yanan Rusakevich, Yuliya Shauchuk, AlehSidorchyk, Dzianis Tarasenka, Maryna Yurevich

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