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Eat dinner (and discuss politics) with an exiled Belarusian theatre company next week

Andrzej Lukowski

Belarus Free Theatre is throwing a supper club in London. Andrzej Lukowski reveals five things you need to know.

1. The Free Theatre is banned in Belarus

Belarus probably isn’t the most repressive country to be eligible for Eurovision, but it’s up there. Belarus Free Theatre’s shows exist to tell the truth about everything from disabled rights to the state-sanctioned suppression of history in the country. All theatres in Belarus are run by the state, so the Free Theatre has to operate underground in the country. Its shows have been raided by police.

2. It hasn’t stopped it from performing there

The company’s co-directors Nikolai Khalezin and Natalia Koliada were forced to relocate from Belarus to Britain when Khalezin was up for arrest for participation in anti-government demonstrations. The rest of the company continue to stage free, illegal shows in an unmarked building in the Minsk suburbs, with audiences hastily convened via a burner phone.

3. It’s become a big deal in the West

Championed by the likes of Mick Jagger, and with a headquarters at the Young Vic, Belarus Free Theatre has a completely different – but no less explosive – body of work that it performs for paying, legal audiences in the UK. Their last major show was ‘Burning Doors’, a hook-up with Pussy Riot’s Maria Alyokhina that tried to articulate the experience of being incarcerated by your own government for making art.

4. Its new London show is a supper club

Offering London audiences a taste of the illicit shows experienced by its Minsk counterparts, ‘Kitchen Revolution’ combines a home-cooked Georgian feast with the opportunity to get involved in – or just watch – a political debate about a hot-button issue of the day. The event’s titled after the nickname for the illicit dinner parties where rebels plotted the overthrow of Soviet Belarus in the 1990s.

5. This week’s event is all about democracy

The theme for this show is: ‘Is Our Democracy Being Sold to the Highest Bidder?’. On hand to debate the big questions are journalist Laurie Penny, leading left-wing protester Jamie Kelsey-Fry and more. Obviously, things are going to get political, but at the same time, it is theatre – there’s no need to worry that it won’t be entertaining, or that your participation is required. And the food is great (albeit heavy).

‘Kitchen Revolution’ is at a secret E3 location. Thu Nov 30. £25.

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