Belarus Free Theatre visit


By Livi Grout-Smith, Oscar Clark and Amber Pearson, 6.2

Last Wednesday morning, we were lucky enough to be visited by Natalia Koliada (Director) and Sophie Robins (Head of Communications) from the world renowned theatre company Belarus Free Theatre (BFT).

Created in Belarus in 2005 as an underground theatre company and having to perform in secret locations so as to protect themselves from prosecution from the Russian and Belarusian governments, BFT’s directors, Nikolai Khalezinm and Natalia Koliada, were forced to move to London to escape further persecution and have since directed their actors in rehearsal via Skype calls between London and Minsk. Having chosen the company as the inspiration for our final 6.2 devised piece, we had never thought we would ever get to meet one of them, let alone have lunch with them, as we did during their visit.

Natalia Koliada, BFT’s co-founding Artistic Director, spoke to 6.1 and 6.2 Theatre students about what it means to make political and culturally important theatre, focussing on personal stories of friends and colleagues who have risked their lives in the expense of making this remarkable theatre. She also followed on by giving us an insight into how the creative process begins and their intentions and aims. One technique she explored with us was asking us individually if we knew of anyone or had a personal possession ourselves that means a great deal to us. After we shared our individual stories, she explained how, as a theatre maker, she would use that information to create short scenes or ‘études’ (the French term given to an instrumental musical composition, usually short, of considerable difficulty, and designed to provide practice material for perfecting a particular musical skill).

Before being whisked away to catch a train to London to rehearse BFT’s upcoming play, Dogs of Europe, at the Barbican, we (Livi, Oscar and Amber) had lunch with Natalia. This was incredibly valuable, as we were able to really develop a true understanding of the company and the process by which they create their productions, helping us in our creative process no end. A huge thank you to Natalia and Sophie for coming, and to Georgie Nugent for organising this amazing experience.