Theatre Critic and Journalist

Review: Minsk 2011, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe

Review: Minsk 2011, Pleasance Courtyard, Edinburgh Fringe

Published in The Independent, 26.08.2011

A man unfurls the Belarusian flag. He is bundled off by a gang of men in thick-soled boots. The same fate awaits a man who applauds, another who checks his watch, even a woman in the front row, just for watching.

Sometimes the mere existence of a show is all it takes. Members of the Belarus Free Theatre, who must perform in secret at home, have suffered the fate they represent. Their latest piece can be overly literal, but its angry power is undeniable. Neither imagined nor researched, it is lived.

A remorseful love letter to their capital, Minsk 2011 shows a city incapable of self-expression. A gay pride march is shut down, marchers are arrested and beaten. Strippers pass for culture and knock-out alcohol is cheaper than self-respect. A pop-up nightclub takes over a factory. The cityscape is vivid and appalling. If scars are sexy, they say, Minsk is the sexiest city in the world.

Belarus, however, is not. Certainly not in terms of international politics. It has no oil, no mountains, only people living under Europe’s last dictatorship, ignored by the rest of the world. The Belarus Free Theatre seek to change that, one audience at a time. These home thoughts from abroad demand attention.

Photograph: Yana Rusakevich

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