Minsk, 2011 A Reply To Kathy Acker, Young Vic 16 June


Another show I would have liked to like but couldn’t.

At the beginning, the ushers repeated No filming, no photography very insistently presumably to get us into the mood for state repression.  Then there followed a number of scenes illustrating life in Minsk:  arrest of peaceful demonstrators, official approval of an erotic dance routine, and explosion on the Metro and blood mixed with sugar, a workers’ canteen by day becoming a wild nightclub by night, the river Nemiga and its associated street (like the Fleet River in London), the sexiness of scars and how the speaker got them, Katya who wanted to avoid sex while being an erotic dancer and dies of anorexia.  That last one sounded quite Kathy Acker, but most of it was sub Vladimir Sorokin.  The argument about the authoritarian regime repressing sex which meant that everything became sexy was never really made–at least not so that I understood it–and I thought the thing fell between two stools.  On the one hand, the scenes weren’t sharply defined enough to make up a brightly-coloured mosaic–the actors were also guilty of mumbling at each other and relying on the audience reading the surtitles–while you didn’t find out enough about for instance Katya to engage with her either.

At the end, the cast recounted their own experiences from 2011 and sang a Belarusian folk song.  That was good, and moving.  And after that there followed the ‘Please put money in the bucket’ speech, traditional for British theatre and surely much more urgent here.

A special message from Belarus Free Theatre:

“We wanted to share with all of you who came to see our performance of Minsk 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker that all of our actors and team managed to get back to Belarus by different flights and trains and will get together this week to start to perform underground in Minsk.

Every night I came on stage to ask for your help so that we could continue to perform for underground Belarusian audiences. Your generous donations to our bucket collection will allow us to perform in Belarus for an entire month. We can’t wait to come back to you, to perform for you and hear your great applause that inspired us and gives us the strength to perform in the last dictatorship of Europe.”

Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, Founding Co-Artistic Directors of the Belarus Free Theatre

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