King Stakh’s Wild Hunt

14th - 16th September 2023

A thrilling gothic noir from one of the world’s bravest theatre companies based on the celebrated novel. Featuring acclaimed actors, opera singers and musicians from Belarus and Ukraine.

King Stakh’s Wild Hunt is one of Uladzimir Karatkievich’s most popular novels. Inspired by Eastern European folklore, it follows the ghostly hunt to free a young heiress from an evil curse.

Directed by Belarus Free Theatre’s co-founding Artistic Directors, Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada, this thrilling gothic noir unites actors, opera singers and musicians from Ukraine and Belarus, many of them political refugees from war or dictatorship.

This world premiere features a transporting score by composer, Olga Podgaiskaya, conducted by Vitali Alekseenok, with the lead roles performed by Ukrainia baritone, Andrei Bondarenko and Ukrainian soprano, Tamara Kalinkina.

King Stakh’s Wild Hunt interlaces opera, theatre, multimedia and live music to tell a story rooted in the history of Belarus with blazing contemporary relevance for Europe today.

Creative team

Lead show image (Barbican poster) photographed by Viktoria Kvitka, with Igor Suliy (assistant to the photographer).

Creative team Gleb Shyrochkin, Kateryna Fogilieva, Antonina Belinska, Nikolas Kosmit, Dmytro Huliienko

Featured actors Nana Koloda, Sergiy Shuliak, Oleksii Novikov, Oleksandr Adamenko, Yaroslav Nikolaiev, Pushkar Yevhenii, Nikita Vankevych, Dmytro Kudin, Kagiian Illia, Volodymyr Marchuk, Peteliak Pavlo

Postchildhood. Postescape

13th - 14th May 2023

Postchildhood is our new performance about the life and problems of Belarusian and Ukrainian refugee teenagers. Performed not by professional actors, but students of our theatre school Free Artist in Warsaw.

Directed by Pavel Haradnicki, Yulia Shevchuk, Nicolai Khalezin and Svetlana Sugako.

The show has original plot, which was created during classes and rehearsals, and fully consists of personal stories of the students.

Some of these young people are refugees twice. At first, because of unprecedented repressions in Belarus, and then because of the russian war against Ukraine, where their parents have found the first shelter after fleeing Belarus.

Despite those two big catastrophes – the dictatorship and the war, – the performance is mainly about their relationships with parents. It became a place to speak about the most intimate and horrifying personal things, rather than just refugee problems.

 

Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker

28th - 31st May 2011

Created one year later “Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker”, a partner piece of New York ’79, is both a love letter to a country that has lost its way and a raw examination of the legacy of scars of repression in the Belarusian capital where sexual freedoms are oppressed and perverted by the authoritarian regime.

“This is what makes the show remarkable: it is a cry of protest against a society where even private life is subject to regulation yet, at the same time, is imbued with a nostalgic patriotism and belief in the possibility of a better future”

A School for Fools

A man kneeling on a boat in sand

1st June 2020

A School for Fools was the first online world premiere in BFT’s 15-year history. Performed and broadcast live from Minsk in the bedrooms, kitchens and bathrooms of the 12-strong ensemble, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, this production is a celebration of creativity in the most difficult of conditions from a Company who has, through necessity, pioneered creating award-winning theatre at-distance.

A School for Fools is an experimental novella and cult classic from the avant-gardist writer, Sasha Sokolov. Directed and adapted for BFT by one of its most senior ensemble members, Pavel Haradnitski, this atypical coming-of-age story tells of a young boy living with dual personality disorder. Exploring the conflict between the individual and the outside world some of today’s most urgent concerns are laid bare: can the internal self ever be fully reconciled with the external self? – and can freedom ever co-exist with oppression? 

Described by Vladimir Nabokov as “an enchanting, tragic, and touching book” it is often viewed as a metaphor for life in the Soviet Union and the regime’s brutal treatment of nonconformists.

“the pleasures of Haradnitski’s production are imitatively cinematic. This production is exuberantly and inventively acted by a team that was clearly trained in make-do theater…..It’s the virus of creative transformation that’s being circulated here. Catching it is good for your health”

The New York Times, 2 June 2020

Technique of Breathing in a Vacuum

Two people sitting on a lawn. They are each holding up a mirror and is dabbing something on their face, wearing a pair of white latex gloves

19th December 2005

Technique of Breathing in a Vacuum by Russian playwright Natalia Moshina, tells the story of a girl and a boy both dying of cancer in a hospice in a Russian province. Staged with a stripped-back aesthetic the play applies a laser-like focus to the psychological and philosophical exploration of what freedom means for young people facing terminal illness and the close certainty of death. In spite of its apolitical subject-matter, this was one of the first of BFT’s stage productions to be prohibited by the KGB. The owners of the original venue were threatened with loss of their licence, so the show was swiftly moved to a private apartment so public performances could continue.

“The cast of young actors, all deeply committed to the performance with the frantic energy of extreme situations. It is the circumstances in which they have to survive that result in this minimum of pauses, the flexibility of bodies, the abstinence of existence ready for any form of conspiration”

Liberation, 22 May 2007

Belliwood. We. Self-Identification

A performer theatrically taking off a coat

12th March 2005

Belliwood. We. Self-Identification is a theatrical collaboration between the co-founding Artistic Directors of BFT and three Belarusian playwrights. Originally conceived as two independent stage productions they are regularly performed together as both reflect on the theme of Belarusian identity. Drawn directly from real-life experiences, Belliwood and We. Self-Identification are two of the earliest examples of the interrogatively rigorous, journalistic approach to theatre-making that characterises all of BFT’s stage productions.

Belliwood by Pavel Pryazhko is both a reconstruction and rejection of the pervasive myths of modern life. The tornado of mass media, shameless propaganda, brightly-coloured artifice is unleashed and its paths of destruction laid bare in a play that calls the demigods of the contemporary world firmly to account.

We. Self-Identification by Kostantin Steshik and Pavel Rassolko, was researched and written on the construction site of the National Library in Minsk, and its dialogue is made up almost entirely of jargon and expletives used by the workmen. The result is a fascinating study of the power of language to offer total immersion into a specific world by exploding the edifice of politeness.

“a co-authored piece attempting to deconstruct a nefarious conflation of identity and nation in Belarus, created in part from surreptitiously-taped street conversations”

Parisvoice.com, 2005

 

4.48 Psychosis

A woman getting slapped

28th May 2005

The first stage production BFT ever mounted underground in Minsk was Sarah Kane’s final play, 4.48 Psychosis.

Rehearsals had already begun at theYanka Kupala National Theatre when the Company was condemned by Lukashenko’s regime prohibiting them from rehearsing and performing the play to the public. Natalia Kaliada and Nicolai Khalezin, the co-founding Artistic Directors of BFT, together with director Vladimir Shcherban, and actors Yana Rusakevich and Olga Shantsina, quickly decided to reimagine how to open the show, recceing thirty unofficial performance venues before chancing upon the Graffitti Café in Minsk where the production finally opened in May 2005.

Lukashenko’s denial that themes touched upon in the play – suicide, mental instability, sexual and political violence – could ever exist within Belarus cemented BFT’s conviction in the artist’s duty to tell human truths and to illuminate both obvious and hidden taboos within society.

This conviction has been a through-line in every BFT production since.

Watch a clip of Belarus Free Theatre’s production of 4.48 Psychosis here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03bcjlv

“the performance’s crazy wild abandon and its continuous flow of ecstatic pain, is allowed to find itself by being”

Exeunt, 2 November 2015

Being Harold Pinter

A person under a large sheet of plastic

7th November 2006

Being Harold Pinter interweaves extracts of the Nobel Prize-winning playwright’s lifetime of writings with testimonies from Belarusian political prisoners in a blazingly original theatrical staging.

“When we look at ourselves in a mirror, it seems that the image which appears in front of us is true. But it is enough to move just an inch to the side and the image will change. Actually we are looking at an endless line of images. But sometimes an artist must break the mirror, and from behind this mirror there is truth looking straight at us”. 

Blurring the line between art and reality, Being Harold Pinter traces the relationship between power and violence in Pinter’s words – drawn from five plays as well as his Nobel speech – to deliver a poignant commentary on institutionalised brutality, freedom and human dignity. First performed in Leeds (UK) in 2007, it has since become one of BFT’s most publicly and critically acclaimed works.

Watch a clip of Being Harold Pinter here:https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03bcpyk

“It’s an extraordinary event that not only illustrates Pinter’s career-long denunciation of political terror, but proves that poor theatre can often deliver the richest dramatic experience”

The Guardian, 16 April 2007

Generation Jeans

Close up to a performer in a commander in chief uniform standing behind a bamboo grid wall, holding the grid.

17th March 2006

Generation Jeans is an autobiographical monologue for two – an actor and a DJ – about rock music and resistance, written and performed by BFT’s co-founding Artistic Director Nicolai Khalezin with music by DJ Laurel. When Belarus was part of the Soviet Union its people were banned from wearing jeans and listening to rock music. The buying or selling of either one could result in arrest at the hands of the KGB. Detained during a demonstration in 2004, Khalezin offers a candid account of the degradations of incarceration, the blossoming of young love and how denim became a symbol of freedom under dictatorship.

Watch a clip of Generation Jeans herehttps://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038x4v1

“You go to the theatre to hear a story; you end up having met a man who, in his mixture of self-mockery and seriousness, shows a spiritual resilience that makes dictatorship look even more inflexible and absurd”

The Guardian, 18 February 2008

Zone of Silence

7th April 2008

Zone of Silence is a modern Belarusian epic in three parts offering a panoramic view of everyday life under dictatorship. Inspired by a popular blog of the same name, Childhood Legends sees BFT’s permanent ensemble of actors share stories from their earliest years, each one a fragment of memory offering a unique insight into life lived under the shadow of authoritarianism. Diverse is a vibrant collective portrait of extraordinary Belarusians on the margins of society, from the self-proclaimed “Best Dancer in the Universe” to an armless guitar-playing former mafia member. The trilogy closes with Numbers, a forbidding cascade of statistics about the devastating dearth of freedoms and opportunities in Belarus today.

an electrifying theatrical experience, a unique combination of verbatim and vivid physical theatre, with a razor-sharp absurdist tone”

American Theatre Magazine, 1 December 2015

Discover Love

Two people dancing

29th - 29th September 2022

Discover Love is a stirringly original drama, researched over nine years, and based on the true story of Irina Krasovskaya and her husband Anatoly, a businessman who supported the Belarus opposition movement. One fateful evening in 1999, Anatoly called to say that he would be coming home late. Irina never saw her husband again. His car was later discovered, but his body has never been found; he simply “disappeared”.

Discover Love traces Irina’s reaction to the news of her husband’s murder: the shock, the realisation, and most powerfully, the loss of a love that continued to blossom.

More info about the show – here!

Buy tickets

Watch a clip of Discover Love here:

https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p038x587

“The powerful dialogue, delivered with unerring directness by actors who have evolved together with the company over the past decade and a half, accomplishes far more than any amount of expensive stagecraft could ever achieve”

The New York Times, 16 April 2020

Eurepica. Challenge.

Close up of a performer holding a microphone and smiling.

28th February 2009

Welcoming aboard Eurepica Airlines! Join us for an unsettling tour of a continent you thought you knew. Eurepica. Challenge. unites 12 playlets penned by writers from across Europe and the US in a dramatic exploration on the themes of tyranny and brutality.

High Words from BFT’s co-founding Artistic Director Nicolai Khalezin dramatises a meeting between an interrogator and a dissident student – represented by a watermelon – in an unforgettably visceral monologue.

“Vladimir Shcherban’s fine staging deftly masters the contrasts between the plays, and the shifts in tone within them, using shiny new luggage as the only props and a giant screen from which huge faces, sometimes only the mouths, smile on us or threaten”

The Times, 22 July 2011