Belarus Free Theatre: In confrontation with regime artists always win – even if they die

Burning Doors, a play by Belarus Free Theatre, was presented in London’s Soho Theatre. The work is based on the performance of Russian activist Pyotr Pavlensky who set fire to the door of the Federal Security Service (FSB) in Moscow. Viktoryia kolchyna, a Belsat TV correspondent in London, has interviewed Mikalai Khalezin, Belarus Free Theatre art director.

Could you please tell our viewers about the preparations?

We decided to tell the story of the people who are out of all relation to the war, but still, they found themselves in the thick of it. We talk about Oleg Sentsov, Pyotr Pavlensky and Pussy Riot. Masha Alyokhina [a member of Pussy Riot] wanted to work with us. We realized that we could include her into the show together with our actors. And then we came up with a model of the play, according to wich we tell the story of what is happening in Ukraine, Belarus, Russia with the help of three creative persons. In general, this is a play about utopia – about any government which nurses the utopian idea of fighting against free-thinking. Any regime wants to defeat free-thinking. Bot not any authoritarian regime has ever achieved that. In this confrontation, it is the artist who always won, even if they died.

There are not only documentary materials, but also drama episodes written with the purpose and remaking literary and scientific works.

Has this show become something brand new?

We made an attempt to to get to the line which marked the limit of the actors’ physical abilities. We even slightly crossed this line. We analyzed what an actor could physically bear. If one studies the subject of violence against a person, they go after it. We turned out to have dived into it; we could not stop, because the actors went on even when I was trying to restrain them a bit and in the end, they came to some points which are beyond the reach for most actors of the world’s theatres.

What was Pyotr Pavlensky’s reaction to the fact of his being inspiration behind the play?

His reaction is ok, because he has no self-advertising ambitions. When we started, he was in prison. At our request, he even wrote two texts which became part of the performance. One of them is about fear, the other is devoted to the Russian artist and prison.

How are you facing the competition of British theatres?

We had our first tour over England in 2007. We have never adapted our plays for any country. Even in Hong Kong we gave non-adapted performances. We never had to live in a highly competitive space, because we occupy our own niche. We stay out of the fields crowded with most theatres. We work on hot-button issues adding artistic language.

Viktoryia Kolchyna,