devised and performed by Belarus Free Theatre
performers, devisers and contributors Pavel Haradnitski, Kiryl Kanstantsinau, Michal Keyamo, Stephanie Pan, Francesco Petruzzelli, Jeremy Proulx, Maryia Sazonova, Nastassia Shcherbak,  Ibrahim Shote, Philippe Spall, Andrei Urazau, Eleanor Westbrook
additional contributors Viktoryia Biran, Siarhei Kvachonak, Josh Coates, Franziska Haberlach and Patrick Walshe McBride
direction, script and stage design Nicolai Khalezin
executive producer and co-writer Natalia Kaliada
composer and musician Arkadiy Yushin
second composer and musician Ignatius Sokol
producer and dramaturg Fenella Dawnay
video and lighting designer Andrew Crofts
sound designer David Gregory
movement and rehearsal director Bridget Fiske
movement co-director Maryia Sazonova
additional music Stephanie Pan
production manager Tom Cotterill
stage manager Svetlana Sugako
assistant director Nadia Brodskaya
sound operator Fred Riding
lighting operator Nick Humphrey
assistant stage managers  Franziska Haberlach, Josh Coates and Patrick Walshe McBride

Research Teams:

Australia, Nigeria, Bangladesh and India Bridget Fiske and Andrew Crofts
Brazil and Morocco Nicolai Khalezin and Natalia Kaliada
Belarus (zones contaminated by Chernobyl) Viktoryia Biran, Pavel Haradnitski and Andrei Urazau
South Dakota, USA Arkadiy Yushin
Morecambe Bay Josh Coates
Tryweryn Valley, St Kilda, Maldives and Syria Patrick Walshe McBride
Somerset Eleanor Westbrook
Syria, Iraq, and Sri Lanka Franziska Haberlach

co-production Belarus Free Theatre and Young Vic
commissioned by LIFT and Melbourne Festival. Presented as part of the LIFT 2014 festival, as part of the Imagine 2020 network, supported by the EU Cultural Programme
made possible by Falmouth University’s Academy of Music & Theatre Arts
supported by the National Lottery through Arts Council England

Running time 1h 30’

Played in English with Italian subtitles

Belarus Free Theatre, the theatre company from Minsk forced to leave the Republic of  Belarus because of the political persecution, presents its latest work Red Forest, which has just debuted at LIFT Festival in London. The Belarus Free Theatre’s project stands as a true theatrical resistance to the violence of power in Belarus today, one of the last dictatorship in Europe. Counter-intelligence, political staging, theatre and newspaper are just some of the ingredients that characterize the activity of the Belarus Free Theatre. The company was founded in 2005 in Minsk by  the Belarusian journalist and playwright Nikolai Khalezin and the theatre producer Natalia Koliada, later joined by the director Vladimir Scherban. The theatre is supported by outstanding figures of the international theatre movement and important public figures, such as Vaclav Havel, Mick Jagger, Arthur Kopit, Harold Pinter, Mark Ravenhill, Tom Stoppard and Ariane Mnouchkine. In December 2007, Free Theatre received the French Republic Human Rights Prize. For the first time in the history of the Prize  it was given to a cultural institution.

Here at VIE the company presents a new and epic legend for the twenty-first century, made extraordinary by collecting real stories from around the world that are intertwined with language video and hypnotic live music. From Belarus to Central Africa, through Australia, Brazil and Syria, Red Forest tells real-life stories from people living in war zones, under dictatorships, in unfair and unequal societies across the globe. It is also the story of people who cannot go back home – environmental migrants, people displaced by natural disasters. This is an unflinching portrait of the double psychological trauma experienced by people facing the daily realities of ecological disaster without democratic infrastructure and free exchange of information and expertise: a part of this  research was recorded in interviews and videos which are visible here.Aisha is on the run: forced to leave her village and give birth to her child in the middle of Sahara, she is traveling in search of a refuge. To find it she will have to overcome the terrible cruelty of nature and man. Belaus Free Theatre brings their unflinching gaze on issues of global reach by creating a folk tale to a contemporary globalized world. During our work on Red Forest the main challenge was to create visual imagery in the performance based on the documentary material collected during several expeditious around the world: the goal was not to use verbal communication or at least to  use the minimum of it. The aim was to present the pain of human beings through movement, physical resolutions and emotions.

In the beginning of the process the decided genre for this performance was epic, but during the performance making process a new genre was created, it was anti-epic. While analyzing hundreds and hundreds of stories of those people who were forced to leave their homes because of climate change and wars, we realized that the refugees are unable to do the heroic things, like heroes do in the epic; on the contrary they can only react to the dynamically changing  situation in order to try to survive and continue their run. The protagonist of the performance was Aisha, a refugee from Liberia, who witnessed the death of her parents and husband and ended up in Morocco with five kids. Another big challenge for the performers was to bring Aisha’s story together with the stories of people in similar situations all over the world. The continuous changes in context were not a purpose, but it was again the desire to break the outline of human pain through the presentation of a whole spectrum of tragedies created by the greed of  the major companies, the human indifference and the cruelty.

Nicolai Khalezin, Director