The Belarus Free Theatre has decided to return to its roots - and this is no metaphor. Almost. Just like the roots of a tree, feeding the trunk and the crown, the provenance of the Belarus Free Theatre is underground. Our origins, under the watchful gaze of the Belarusian dictatorship, gave, and continue to give, the company a huge range of ideas, perspectives, stories and causes for reflection.
Our productions usually combine documentary material and personal narratives; Counting Sheep is no different. However, it is further complemented by a live music score that gives this real-life narrative an epic sound, a sound rooted in Ukrainian folklore dating back centuries. However, we all agreed that this segment of modern history needed to sound modern – at every stage of the performance we seek to open up the space to new sounds and tones, and not in a purely musical sense.
Our work seeks to elevate simple human narratives to an epic level. For that we rely on our
experiences of confrontation; confrontation between civil society and corrupt dictatorial government. Today these confrontations generate a wide range of stories; stories of love and betrayal, courage and cowardice, despair and hope, and fear….
The story of the Maidan Revolution in Kiev is not simply a collection of dramatic personal narratives, like that of the Counting Sheep protagonists, Mark and Marichka Marczyk. It is also the story of the opposition of dignity to cowardice, honesty to corruption; a story of fortitude in the face of a rifle.
Crucial to this production are the real-life narratives of the actors and musicians who form the company; many were at Maidan, experiencing first hand the confrontation with the powers that be. Those from Belarus have been imprisoned for freedom of expression; they have experienced brutal beatings at mass actions and summary dismissals from their work or university. These very experiences help to truly immerse the audience, to make them really feel the narrative – the rough, immersive and physical nature of the production gives them a unique insight into the material.
In our opinion this production has a special resonance in the UK today. The ‘Heavenly Hundred’, those 104 people who lost their lives at Maidan, died for the European dream. They gave their lives in the hope that their country would join a united Europe. We share the views of these people, respect their choices, and consider it our duty to share this extremely important fragment of Ukrainian history through the prism of theatre.