Russian influence does not end there. But in terms of the arrival of foreigners, there is almost no alternative to it: only a few come to us from Western Europe. One of the exceptions is the production group led by the Italian Aldo Tarabella, who will stage another version of "The Barber of Seville" in the summer of 2023 at the Opera and Ballet Theatre. But the rest ignore the theatre of our country.
That is why it is from the territory of our eastern neighbours that both performers and foreign groups come. In March, the "M.@rt.Kantakt" festival was held in Mahilioŭ. State media announced that the forum is returning
in a full-scale format. Indeed, in the past the festival almost turned into a review of Belarusian bands, but last year it returned to the usual international programme. This year, its geography has doubled compared to 2022. Then Belarus and Russia were represented in the programme, now Bulgaria and Kazakhstan have joined them. But in reality, two Kazakh productions and one Bulgarian one were shown in Mahilioŭ. They didn't do the trick: Belarus (9 performances) and Russia (6) again occupied the lion's share of the programme, so the winners were chosen from among these countries.
By the way, "Pachupki" of the Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama won. This is a milestone work of the director Jaŭhien Karniah, which embodies the current era and our time. But the premiere took place at the beginning of 2022, and since then a performance of a similar level has not appeared in Belarus. This once again proves that with the current situation in the country, masterpieces or even successful performances appear more against the odds than thanks to the circumstances.
However, the Mahilioŭ forum still allowed to show some interesting productions from abroad. Compared to it, the announced "Victory" festival organized by the state Kupałaŭski Theatre (April-May 2023) looks extremely traditional
. In its programme there are traditional plays about the Second World War, according to the direction, the declared goal is "patriotic education of citizens", which relegates the actual art to the background.
The idea of inviting guests from Moscow is also picked up by other teams. The reputation of the visitors does not matter. In March 2023, the play "The Game of Love" was staged in the capital's Musical Theatre. The director was Marat Basharov. He supported Russian aggression against Ukraine. Until now, he was known as a man who beat two wives at different times. The Metropolitan Opera House invited a "special guest" from Russia to one of the concerts — he was the musician Sergei Roldugin. He has a reputation
as Russian President Vladimir Putin's wallet, helping him launder money.
Russians also feel free on the stage of the Belarusian State Academic Theatre for Young Spectators: almost all recent premieres were staged exclusively by Muscovites. This circumstance is a reason to talk in more detail about this theatre. Recently, it often performed at festivals, which is explained by the influence of its director Vera Palakova. For example, "M.@rt.Kontakt" opened with the performance "Karenina" of her private project "TriTeFormat", which is actually integrated into the system of the theatre. "Figaro", staged directly by this collective, was announced in the programme.
Palakova became the director a year ago, in April 2022. Even before her appointment, the theatre staged the play "Time chose them" based on the book series "Pioneers-Heroes". But all other performances of the theatre have been shown in Belarusian. Before her appearance, Palakova announced
reducing the use of the Belarusian language in the theatre performances in her interview.
"We have two official languages in our country. Focusing only on the Belarusian language means losing part of the audience, guests of the city. After all, guests come to us, the same Russians who, unfortunately, do not know the Belarusian language. Why are we losing this viewer? We have the Kupałaŭski Theatre, which works only in Belarusian. The Republican Theatre of Belarusian Drama (RTBD), which works only in the Belarusian language. <...>. This impoverishes us. I believe that performances should be in two languages: Belarusian and Russian. Then the theatre has a commercial history. <…> The state will always lend us a helping hand, but we should not be dependent on this vaccination. We have to learn to make money ourselves. It seems to me that we ourselves will be proud of this, that we will be able to earn money ourselves",
Words did not depart from action. The premiere of the next production, "The Canterville Ghost", performed after the appointment of a new director, was still held in Belarusian, but the poster was already in Russian. After the performance, there was a press show in Russian: "The Alps. Forty-first", based on Vasil Bykaŭ's "Alpine Ballad"; "Zhenya + Tanya = love" (based on Pushkin's "Eugene Onegin"), "Figaro", "The Queen of Spades", as well as the children's production "Hedgehog in the Mist" and the New Year's performance "Once Upon a Time in Sladkograd". Except for the last one, all of them were staged by directors from Moscow.
The number of Belarusian-speaking collectives decreased not only because of the Belarusian State Academic Theatre for Young Spectators. In September 2022, the authorities suspended the work of the Red Catholic Church — since the end of the 1990s, it became the venue for the Belarusian poetic theatre of one actor "Znič": a special hall was equipped there. Since then, no more performances have been held. Later, Viačasłaŭ Šakalida died — the only actor who was on the staff of the theatre. And in February 2023, the director and artistic director of "Znič" Halina Dziahileva was retired
. The dismissal was not political: Dziahileva turned 76 this year. But there is not a single actor left in the state, the positions of director and artistic director are vacant. Since then, there is no information on the official page
of the theatre.
In total, 29 professional theatres operate in Belarus. Only six of them worked exclusively in Belarusian until the beginning of the 2022/2023 season. Now that "Znič" has stopped working (quite possibly forever), and the Belarusian State Academic Theatre for Young Spectators is being russified before our eyes, there are only four of them left: the Kupałaŭski Theatre [official name - the Janka Kupała National Theatre], the RTBD, the Jakub Kołas National Theatre and the Belarusian theatre "Lalka" (the last two are in Viciebsk).