What happens when you are declared an enemy of the state simply for making art? Belarus Free Theatre combine forces with Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina to share real-life stories of persecuted artists, living under dictatorship, who will not be silenced in Burning Doors, which will make its Australian debut in the Fairfax Studio for a strictly limited season from 29 November 2016.
Burning Doors is brand new blazingly contemporary theatre from Belarus Free Theatre (BFT) drawn from the real-life stories of Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina, Russian Actionist and political artist Petr Pavlensky and incarcerated Ukrainian film-maker, Oleg Sentsov.
Through the lens of these three artists, and drawing on their own experience as political refugees, BFT explores the psychological impact of imprisonment, exile and forced migration, casting their gaze towards the displacement of people due to political persecution and conflict in Europe today.
Alyokhina makes her theatre debut performing alongside members of BFT’s permanent ensemble, as Burning Doors marks an unprecedented collaboration between Belarus Free Theatre, the only theatre company in Europe banned by its own government, and Alyokhina who served a two-year prison sentence for the group’s anti-Putin performance in 2012.
Belarus Free Theatre is an award-winning theatre company founded in 2005 in Minsk under Europe’s last surviving dictatorship. Its existence is illegal in a country where only state-sanctioned theatre is permitted. Since 2011, BFT has been based between Minsk and London where founding members, husband and wife team Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, together with Associate Director Vladimir Shcherban, are political refugees in the UK.
BFT’s permanent ensemble are based in Minsk where they campaign, educate and perform every single day of the year, underground. Performers and audiences are under the constant watch of the authorities; performances have been raided by the KGB and audience members arrested.
In spite of this, BFT is a hot ticket; more than 6000 people saw a BFT performance underground in Minsk last year. Described by The New York Times as, “one of the bravest and most inspired underground troupes on the planet”, BFT has brought audiences some of the world’s most provocative theatre including 40 new productions performed in more than 30 countries over the past decade.
Belarus Free Theatre has enjoyed the support and solidarity of fellow artists including the late Harold Pinter and Vaclav Havel; Sir Tom Stoppard, David Lan, Steven Spielberg, Jude Law, Kevin Spacey, Mick Jagger, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Vivienne Westwood, Kim Cattrall, Ian McKellen and Samuel West.
Belarus Free Theatre is an Associate Company at the Young Vic and at Falmouth University’s Academy of Music & Theatre Arts (AMATA). Further afield, BFT has a long-standing partnership with both the Public Theater and LaMaMa in New York.
“We don’t have time to sit and wait,” said Nicolai Khalezin, co-founding Artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre. “The people who desperately fight for art, who desperately say what they think, and sacrifice so many things are worth our solidarity and support.”
Following the performance of Burning Doors on Wednesday 30 November, join Triple R’s Richard Watts in a post-show discussion on the power of political theatre with Belarus Free Theatre’s Artistic Director Natalia Koliada, Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina, Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius and choreographer & Melbourne’s Yirramboi Director Jacob Boehme.
Fairfax Studio – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Season: 29 November – 3 December 2016
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au
Image: Burning Doors by Belarus Free Theatre (supplied)