In a land where theatre and the media are state controlled and art is strictly censored, free artistic expression is a rare and precious commodity. Those who demand it pay a high price. This may be the only theatre company in the world that has had every member imprisoned because of their work
The Belarus Free Theatre was founded in March 2005 by Natalia Kaliada ad Nikolai Khalezin later joined by director Vladimir Scherban. A husband and wife team determined to produce striking contemporary, dealing with the modern issues of their country. They decided that they would not allow their art to be compromised by the draconian state censorship in Europe’s last dictatorship. They were quickly banned for performing plays such as Sarah Kane’s “4.48 Psychosis” and Mark Ravenhill’s “Shopping and Fucking”. The authorities in Belarus deemed mental health issues and homosexuality inappropriate for public performance stating that these issue did not exist in Belarus.
It became increasingly hard for the Belarus Free Theatre to find space to perform in and they were forced to perform in any space they could find. This could be a friend’s apartment or a clearing in the woods. Constantly under surveillance by the authorities they started holding “weddings” as a ruse to cover their performances.
Most members of the company have been fired from state theatres because of their involvement with Free Theatre and classified as “unstable” elements by the authorities but they continue to perform. Determined not to be silenced Natalia and Nikolai now living in exile in Britain, have become human rights campaigners as well as theatre makers. Travelling the world they constantly fight to bring the plight of the Belarusian people into the worlds view, determined that one day they will see a free and democratic Belarus.