Belarus/UK // Theatre  
Belarus Free Theatre

Burning Doors

An explosive demonstration of the power of artistic resistance, with special guest Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina.

Canadian Opera Company’s Joey and Toby Tanenbaum Opera Centre

Imagine being declared an enemy of the state simply for making art. Where is the space for freedom when the government suppresses your basic right to self-expression? How do you survive in the world’s most brutal prison systems?

Belarus Free Theatre — one of the leading refugee-led theatre companies in the United Kingdom and the only theatre in Europe currently banned by its own government on political grounds — combined forces with Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina to disclose stories of persecuted artists who will not be silenced. Drawn from the lives of Alyokhina, Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky, and incarcerated Ukrainian filmmaker Oleg Sentsov, Burning Doors uses Belarus Free Theatre’s own experience of political oppression and supports their campaign for artistic freedom and human rights across the globe.
The Canadian debut of this blazing, taboo-busting production, named one of the 10 best theatre pieces of 2017 by The New York Times, sparked conversations long after the show ended and reminded us just how precious freedom is.

Burning Doors was created in partnership with ArtReach as part of Journey Festival International 2016; co-commissioned by Arts Centre Melbourne, and developed at Falmouth University’s Academy of Music and Theatre Arts (AMATA). Burning Doors is generously supported by Arts Council England.
Burning Doors image
Belarus Free Theatre

Burning Doors

An explosive demonstration of the power of artistic resistance, with special guest Pussy Riot's Maria Alyokhina.

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British Council

Creative Team

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.

Belarus Free Theatre

Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin

Maria Akyokhina
Pavel Haradnitski
Siarhei Kvachonak
Kiryl Masheka
Maryia Sazonava
Stanislava Shablinskaya
Andrei Urazau
Yuliya Shauchuk

Dig Deeper

Volcano Artistic Director Ross Manson in conversation with Natalia Kaliada and Maria Alyokhina
June 21 (post-performance of Burning Doors)

Ross Manson is an award-winning director, an actor, a translator, and the founding artistic director of Volcano, an internationally acclaimed theatre company based in Toronto. Volcano is an independent, concept-driven company characterized by formal experimentation, risk-taking and multi-disciplinarity. Volcano hosted an extended workshop with Belarus Free Theatre in 2014. Ross has directed over twenty shows for the company, which have toured to three continents, and won or been nominated for over seventy local, national and international awards. He has directed for companies across Canada and around the world, including the Canadian Stage Company the Tarragon theatre, and the National Svenska Theatre, Helsinki. As an actor, Ross has appeared in film, television, radio, and in leading roles at over 20 theatres across Canada and the USA.