Belarus Free Theatre is at the Albany this week for the World Premiere of Price of Money – it’s only London dates. This brand new production explores the power of money in our everyday lives and the price we are often asked to pay for it. Ahead of its run Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 September, Allison Gold offers an insight into the background to Belarus Free Theatre, and why the company’s relationship with the Albany is so special.
For those not yet familiar with Belarus Free Theatre, it’s useful to understand a little more about where they come from: Belarus, Europe’s last dictatorship. Since 1994 the country has been under the leadership of president Aleksandr Lukashenko and is notorious for its oppressive regime and numerous human rights violations. Today it remains the only country in Europe that uses the death penalty with an estimated 321 executions ordered between 1990 and 2009. Furthermore, media is state-controlled and censored while freedom of speech is silenced by heavily discouraging activism.
Artistic Directors Natalia Kaliada and her husband Nicolai Khalezin formed Belarus Free Theatre in 2005, joined shortly after by director Vladimir Scherban. It is the only independent theatre in Belarus, and as such has come under attack from the state. Threatened by the Belarusian government for the company’s work, some of their collaborating friends were imprisoned, forcing Natalia and Nicolai to flee the country with their daughter. The couple was granted political asylum here in the UK, and made Deptford their home when they first arrived in 2011. Here in London they established a new part of the company while the rest of the company continues to work underground in Minsk.
Belarus Free Theatre has overcome huge challenges to bring freedom of speech and expression to the people of Belarus. The underground branch of the company is forced to perform in secret with the actors putting themselves at considerable risk to reach the Belarusian public. Globally, the company have performed in 42 countries bringing awareness of human rights and the oppression happening in Belarus.
Belarus Free Theatre returns to where its artistic directors first called home in the UK, our very own Deptford. The world premiere of Price of Money marks the start of an ongoing relationship between Belarus Free Theatre and the Albany. It is a collaboration that will see the company working closely with Deptford’s local communities, particularly focussing on young people.
‘When BFT first came to London, they were drawn to Deptford, where they felt a close association with the streets, markets and people of the area. In Belarus, the company had been focussing on the big political issues for the country; it was only more recently that they reflected how important they were to the local communities where they lived as well as the wider artistic community and their political struggles. They were drawn to the Albany because of the very radical, deep engagement that the arts centre has with the communities that surround it: they saw an opportunity to engage at a more grassroots level with local people than might be available to them elsewhere, particularly in central London venues where the ‘local community’ is perhaps less clearly defined.’ – Gavin Barlow, CEO, The Albany
Allison Gold, Marketing Assistant, The Albany
See Belarus Free Theatre’s Price of Money this week from Tuesday 16 – Saturday 20 September. For more information and to book, please click here.
Don’t miss our free Solidarity Party with Belarus Free Theatre after the final performance on Saturday 20 September from 9.30pm til late – book your tickets here.