Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker

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Minsk, 2011: A Reply to Kathy Acker
© Niikolai Khalezin Yana Rusakevich in Minsk

This latest show from eastern European outlaws Belarus Free Theatre is subtitled 'A Reply To Kathy Acker', and was conceived as a response to the American writer's 'New York City, 1979', a Pulitzer- winning survey of sexual identity in the Big Apple.

If it weren't for the title one might easily mistake 'Minsk, 2011' for a show from 1979: this is an exercise in old skool agit-prop, and there are moments when, regardless of the message, the media of nudity, screaming and bodypaint feel like unhelpful clichés from a bygone age of radical theatre.

But context is everything: Belarus is Europe's last dictatorship and this banned theatre company does come from an extreme time and place. 'Minsk, 2011' is a series of high energy vignettes devised by the company that briskly sum up the heightened, distressing reality of modern life in the Belarusian capital.

It's largely grim, but visually arresting, never self-pitying, and leavened with gallows humour. But it's the two most upbeat scenes that lingered the most in my mind: one, set in a hedonistic, illegal gay bar intoxicatingly captured the thrill of genuinely illicit pleasure; and the last, in which the company members sit down and explain why they will be returning to Belarus after this tour (because of family, because it's home) is gentle and heartbreaking, a glimpse of the regular folk behind the fearless facades.

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Event phone: 020 7922 2922
Event website: http://www.youngvic.org
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