About Belarus Free Theatre
Belarus Free Theatre is the only theatre company in Europe banned by its government on political grounds. Founded in Minsk in 2005, BFT emerged as a direct challenge to the absolute censorship of freedom of artistic expression in “Europe’s Last Dictatorship”. The company was quickly forced underground, faced with harassment and persecution for its role in challenging the status quo and demanding recognition for those hidden on the margins of an oppressive society. In 2011, the company’s three artistic leaders, Natalia Kaliada, Nicolai Khalezin and Vladimir Shcherban, were forced into exile. Becoming political refugees in the UK, BFT was given a home in The Young Vic in London. Since then Belarus Free Theatre has worked across borders to create, campaign and educate – building a movement for democratisation, human rights and artistic freedom.
In Minsk, where the company is outlawed, BFT’s permanent ensemble continues to perform over 100 times each year and carries out daily teaching and education projects for young artists and activists through its academy Studio Fortinbras. Rehearsing between the UK and Belarus by Skype, the company performs in temporary, underground spaces, constantly on the run. BFT’s audience, “the bravest audiences in the world”, face potential arrest and detention simply for turning up to a performance attending a performance.
Internationally, Belarus Free Theatre tour, perform and campaign extensively for social justice and the protection of people stigmatised and ostracised by their societies. Belarus Free Theatre believes that although dictatorship and restrictions to free expression exist in their absolute form in Belarus, we must continue to challenge and resist the limits to artistic freedom and barriers to mutual understanding wherever they occur.
DEVISED AND PERFORMED BY
Belarus Free Theatre
Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin
The New York Times Theatre Critic Ben Brantley in conversation with Natalia Kaliada and Maria Alyokhina
June 21 (post-performance of Burning Doors)
Ben Brantley has been the chief theatre critic of The New York Times since 1996, filing reviews regularly from London as well as New York. He is the author of two books and a recipient of the George Jean Nathan Award for theatre criticism. Subjects of his profiles include Belarus Free Theatre for which he travelled to Minsk.