18 August 2017, Friday, 17:40

Authorities attempted to derange Free Theater’s tour in Northern Ireland  


Belarus Free Theatre is starting its tour in Belfast on 31 October in the framework of the Festival At Queens festival.

As charter97.org came to know, when the troupers were supposed to take their places in a plane, the airport personnel told to an actor Kiryl Kanstantsinau, that he was not allowed to leave the country so he couldn’t take the flight. When asked about the grounds for the prohibition, the official form the border control said that the actor could find that out from his district police inspector.

Kiryl Kanstantsinau is a student of the theatrical laboratory Fortinbras with Belarus Free Theatre. For a number of months he has been playing in the first string of actors in the Minsk’2011 performance. Very recently he returned from Amsterdam where the theatre premiered the show Trash Cuisine and that time Kiryl did not have any problems leaving the country.

Conscription could not be a reason for refusal to let him out of the country as Kanstantsinau has a postponement for the time of study at one of Belarusian high education institutions. In spring he was detained by special services together with two dozen young people in Free Theater’s premises in Minsk while watching the documentary Last Dictator in Europe. Apart from that Kiryl is an activist of the civic campaign for adoption of a alternative military service law.    

The charter97.org web-site asked the art-director of the Belarus Free Theater Mikalai Khalezin to comment on the Kiryl  Kanstantsinau’s prohibition to leave the country.

- Your troupe is constantly facing the pressure from the part of Belarusian special services. Is it the first time that you experience this kind of a method of struggle with the Free Theater?

- No, it is not the first time. The first was the one in 2008 before our month long tour in the London Soho Theatre. Although, the mechanism then was a bit different – the actor of the Belarusian Theater for Young Spectators, who was invited for a part in the To Be Harold Pinter performance, did not show up in the airport without giving the reasons, which threatened the very tour. Later we found out that he was “strongly advised” not to go to a tour with the Free Theater. And a month later he received a high state award – a Cristal Shoe prize.

- How did you cope with the situation then?

- That time another actor was urgently, in twenty for hours, introduced for the part, and it went well.

- Did you have to adopt similar measures this time?

- No, we managed to deal without it, having ensured that the necessary composition of the troupe is there for the tour. But I would no conceal that now we are always prepared for such a course of events and keep a reserve variant at call.

- In your opinion, why is the pressure on the theater has been put through the young people of the team lately?

- I suppose, the special services got already tired of fighting those, who has been in the theater for more than seven years – they have been expressing their tough attitude towards what has been going on in the country. The young people, who have joined the troupe recently, can be more susceptible to pressure. That is why the special services are trying to paralyze the work of the theater through them, but, fortunately, without a success.

- Which agency, you think, is carrying out this work of suspending the activities of different creative groups in the country?

- I am not sure that one particular agency is dealing with that. The authorities have brought forth a huge number of agencies, trying to prove their loyalty to the authorities, - they are competing with each other, trying to gain favor and receive financing, accommodation, promotion. This is a vicious structure in the first place, which is working to annihilate any activity – civic, political or creative. But at the same time such intentions bring forth a humongous amount of mistakes in their work, and sometimes those mistakes cost the country of millions of loss. Considering that maintenance of such services costs the tax payers hundreds millions dollars, whereas the personnel of these services, receiving huge salaries, come to work thinking only about how to forbid yet another actor to leave the country.