Modern Drama in Belarus

What difficulties do arise in staging of modern dramaturgy in Belarus?

Belarus gained the title of “the last dictatorship in Europe” a long time ago. If you translate the meaning of this phrase into theatrical language, you obtain a complete lack of modern drama in theatres, lack of public discussion in mass media, a ban on staging of works of a number of playwrights, a special structure in the Ministry of Culture engaging in censorship of artistic works, etc. In fact, the Belarus Free Theatre is the only theatrical structure dealing with contemporary playwrights, and its structure combines a theater itself, International Contest of Modern Dramaturgy, a publishing house, a recording studio, and Fortinbras theater-studio, where young actors are getting trained.

Does it become easier or harder to stage modern dramaturgy?

The situation is practically unchanged over the last ten years. For the Free Theatre, this process is normal and common, because the theatre is engaged in staging only modern drama; for the state theatres it is problematic, because even if some directors want to stage a modern actual text there are a lot of difficulties – theatre managers are trying to stop this process at the stage of conception, so that young directors do not “discredit” theatre management in the eyes of the Ministry of Culture. This problem concerns not only theatre – censorship also exists in the field of fine arts, music, and literature…

How did the idea to write a play appear?

The main heroine of the play is our friend, and she is a godmother of our younger daughter. Her husband was kidnapped and murdered in 1999. For many years, we communicated, recorded interviews, gathered information, and at some point I decided to describe the events that had happened to Irina and other women whose husbands were killed or imprisoned. It was not difficult for me because I was inside of the situation, helping those women, and being next to them in the most difficult period – when they became aware of the loss of their beloved men.

”Dreams” is your first play. Do you plan to write other plays?

I have been always engaged in playwriting and continue to do so now. Two plays “Generation Jeans” and “Discover Love”, I co-wrote with my husband, a playwright Nikolai Khalezin. Both of these plays were staged in the Free Theatre and have been shown in two-dozen countries. Unfortunately, the producing of new theatre takes almost all of my time, and there is practically no time left for writing.

What do you think about an idea to organize a festival of Russian-language modern drama in Great Britain?

This is a good idea, but it should be understood that the Russian-language dramaturgy is not a mono-polar phenomenon. It exists in different countries and on different continents, and everywhere it has its distinctive features. One thing is a drama, written in modern Russia, which has its own distinctive thematic focus, and quite another thing is Russian drama of Belarus, more prone to European language of dramaturgy. And authors who live in America or Western Europe represent a completely different facet of Russian-speaking dramaturgy. We receive on average about three hundred Russian-language plays from half a dozen countries annually, and we see a striking difference between the works – thematic, linguistic, and philosophical …

Do you follow the work of your colleagues in Britain? Are there parallels between the British and Russian-language contemporary dramaturgy?

Of course, we are watching the development of British dramaturgy, as one of the best playwriting scenes in the world. Moreover, most of the performances of the Belarus Free Theatre were staged based on Belarusian and British dramaturgy. In our arsenal we have been staging plays written by Harold Pinter, Mark Ravenhill, Sarah Kane, and Caryl Churchill. Like I said, the Russian-language dramaturgy is multifaceted – from brutal-exotic to refined-European. It’s hard to match or contrast it with works of the British playwrights. In the Russian-language dramaturgy there are more failures, because of a failed system of education and dramaturgy for playwrights, and more exotic range of plays, because of a huge geographic spread of authors. It is easier here to draw parallels between specific authors, rather than drama schools.

  • About Us

    Sputnik is a British theatre company dedicated to sourcing, translating and producing new Russian drama for British audiences.

    There are several strands to Sputnik's work including:
    - producing new Russian plays in the UK
    - programming and organising the Russian Theatre Festival in London
    - developing Russian playwriting through commissions and exchanges
    - outreach work bringing drama to disadvantaged young people
    - cultural events with Russian literature and music

    Why Russia?
    Russia has a history of theatrical innovation. Russian playwrights have played a significant role in shaping modern European theatre.

    Contemporary playwriting in Russia has been going through an important and innovative period since 1991 with a prolific output by predominantly young dramatists.

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