On Friday I went along December’s First Friday at Brighton Dome; I hadn’t been since the first one way earlier in the year and only made it to this one as someone reminded me it was on, anyway I’m so glad I did make it. First Friday is a chance for creative types in the Brighton area to meet and network, they also have a guest speaker offering a sort of provocation at every event. This month’s speaker was Natalia Kaliada co-founder of Belarus Free Theatre.
I’ve been aware of this company for a while, but not yet made it to one of their shows (although I’m hoping this will change in June when their new work Red Forest opens at the Young Vic). Despite never having seen them I’ve always found them inspiring – they are a theatre company created out of a sense of urgency, and still existing with this. Urgency, I think, is often missing from theatre created in this country.
I learnt a lot listening to Natalia talk, a huge amount that I didn’t know about Belarus – a county that is in the EU. Here’s what I learnt, in case you don’t know about it either:
- Belarus is the only country in the EU still to be under the rule of – what is essentially – a dictatorship, and has been so for nearly 20 years.
- There are 28 theatre companies in Belarus, 27 of them are under the rule of the state.
- Belarus Free Theatre is the only independent theatre company in Belarus, and as a result most of their underground performances are raided by the secret police with actors and audience members being arrested and suffering 23 days in jail.
- All of Belarus’ media is under the control of the state – as a result the inhabitants are often very isolated and cut off from the rest of the world.
- The situation we now see in Russia regarding homosexuality and gay rights has been happening in Belarus for years.
Just a few bits of information that maybe you’re already aware of, and maybe you’re not. Also if you don’t know about Belarus Free Theatre you should look them up, they’re worth knowing about.