Skip to main content

Generation Jeans- Belarus Free Theatre- Staging a Revolution

Generation Jeans = Generation Freedom Fighters. A provocative analogy to take away with you from Belarus Free Theatre's latest play in Staging a Revolution, a festival celebrating their 10th anniversary. 



Nicolai Khalezin

The play nearly didn't happen though, an unplanned and  heavy handed entrance by the police into the bowels of the car park situated deep underneath parliament where BFT were about to legally perform in, nearly stopped the show- appropriate for Belarus Free Theatre, here attempting to mimic the secret conditions they are forced to work under in Belarus in order to escape the law enforcers and the KGB.
However, the police appeased after their unnecessary inspection (had something to do with the mention of journalists and the Guardian) the show was allowed to continue and I couldn't help wondering it was a pity the law enforcers didn't stick around, for they would have witnessed a deceptively simple and beautiful play. Based on co founder of BFT Nicolai Khalezin's life, it is elaborate with metaphor, acute in its political dissections, exuberant with quiet emotion and all told through first person narrative with Khalezin playing himself to the background of quiet rock.
The plot traces the cultural history of jeans and what wearing them can symbolise. Khalezin gives us a detailed picture of his boyhood, selling Wranglers in school to make a quick buck (they were banned in the former USSR and Belarus) with KGB agents waiting in hotel lobbies to pounce on teenage bootleggers. The play really works as a testimonial to Khalezin's own struggle to find identity and freedom in a country he increasingly finds it difficult to reconcile himself with, the play's language is precise, sparse, almost terse and yet poetical and peppered with humour. Khalezin's performance is also understated and soft, opening himself out to the audience with a vulnerability which makes us feel we are next to him in the courtroom, with him when he falls in love with Natalia Kaliada and with him when he is shoved into a claustrophobic 80x80cm glass cell.  As he encourages our shouts "I am free!" to reach the chambers perhaps still in session above us, and elaborates on the "persistent desire" to shout such words and develops his theme that "generation jeans- they are the people of freedom" he combines muted anger with intolerable personal pain and sadness for a homeland lost- for the moment- to the clutches of a dictator.


in

It's a play that allows us to breathe though. At times of high emotion, there are pauses to allow us to reflect. Perfectly paced and timed, Khalezin doesn't stumble and makes us think that this is what the works of Svetlana Alexievich may sound and look like were they to be staged. 
A poignant production, shining a blazing light on the inconsistencies and contradictions of a country cruelly oppressed, it displays genuine humour with real warmth and compassion.


Generation Jeans is part of Belarus Free Theatre’s Staging a Revolution, a two week festival of performances and discussion platforms from Belarus Free Theatre to mark their 10th anniversary in 2015 (2-14 November).

Performances and discussions will be live-streamed here: http://belarusfreetheatre.com/livestreaming


Written, directed and performed by Nicolai Khalezin


Music DJ Laurel (Laur Biarzhanin)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Walking the Tightrope- Theatre Delicatessen

Site-specific set? Perhaps. In the old Guardian offices in Farringdon, Offstage Theatre and Theatre Uncut curate a cycle of 12 short plays exploring the tension[s] between art and politics, reactions to the budget cuts to the arts in the UK and debate freedom of expression controversies. Corruption, class divides, perception, blood money, gesture politics and culpability, it’s all there and recent topical events are given stage time, from The Tricycle’s controversial decision to withdraw their support for the UK Jewish Film Festival to the Barbican’s cancelled Exhibit B. The plays are entertaining- Sun City by April De Angelis, Re: Exhibit by Gbolahan Obisesan, Old Newland by Julie Pascal, Tickets are on Sale Now by Caryl Churchill and Exhibit A, by Neil LaBute, all deserve special mention for looking beyond the parameters of funding and freedom of expression in the UK arts- by which of course, I mean a theatrical London still surfing the very last trickling waves of Colonialism and it…

A Man of Good Hope: review

“The ability to have someone tell your story is so important. It says you know I was here.” Maya Angelou It’s a piece of musical theatre about having hope. It’s an urgent work which speaks of age old global phenomenons such as migration and life as a persecuted refugee. The term refugee has been part of the western world’s history since the persecution of protestants in France in 1540, the term migrant is biblical. The book upon which the show is based, an account of the life of Somali Asad Abdullahi who witnessed the murder of his mother when he was eight years old in Mogadishu during the civil war and who then fled across Africa as a boy and young man as a consequence, is in some ways so traumatic a read that the stage work has to offer more positivity than the title infers. 
In the Isango Ensemble and director Mark Dornford-May, with a little help from Stephen Daldry, the book, by Jonny Steinberg, has found the perfect stage partners. One feels that no other company could do this wor…

Safe House- art meets theatre at the Young Vic with Jeremy Herbert and Gabriella Sonabend

It starts with a journey down a narrow corridor, fist clenching wooden key.
‘Follow the yellow line’ the polite Usher says and I do, around the corner and into a foyer area, where I am met with a gust of wind from a machine that Jeremy Herbert, the designer, has created himself. As my hair blows and my cheeks and eyes are battered as if I am standing on top of a mountain, I am tempted to remain here, to continue to feel the gusts in my face and listen to the sound the wind makes. I don’t want anything else and I can’t hear anything else, only aware of a need to immerse myself in it, to let myself go in the rapid flashing lights that emanate from its surface. I’m one who craves aloneness and enjoys it all too well, but I am afraid that someone will come and disturb this brief relationship myself and the wind machine have struck up, or that my mind will interfere, the buzz of thoughts getting the better of me.. so I move on around the room, after all, there are four more ‘safes’, all a s…