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Belarus Free Theatre forced to cancel show after cast members arrested

Actors from Belarus Free Theatre being arrested during the protests on March 25, 2017. Photo: Belarus Free Theatre Actors from Belarus Free Theatre being arrested during the protests on March 25, 2017. Photo: Belarus Free Theatre
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Belarus Free Theatre has been forced to cancel the premiere of its new show in Belarus after several members of the company were arrested and suffered injuries.

The cancellation came after a large-scale protest against the country’s president Alexander Lukashenko, which prompted mass arrests.

One of the company’s actors, Yana Rusakevich, suffered a concussion and is still in hospital. She was due to lead the cast of the show, which was scheduled to open on March 26.

Another actor, Sergey Kvachonok, has been sentenced to an initial 10 days in jail for charges including “hooliganism, strong language and shouting”, according to the company’s Twitter feed.

He was meant to be performing in another new show later this week to mark the 12th anniversary of BFT.

The company’s co-founder, Natalia Kaliada, told The Stage: “We are working now with lawyers in order to organise food parcels for him, but it is very difficult. Our attempts over the last two days have not been successful. It’s really disturbing that we are not able to get food to him.”

She added: “The new show has been postponed while we are waiting for the actor to get out of jail. We will perform another show, done exactly on purpose to say we are much stronger.”

The alternative show, Discover Love, was performed on Sunday instead and was dedicated “to all arrested, missing and injured” in the protests on March 25. It is about kidnappings and murders in Belarus.

Four other members of the BFT ensemble were initially arrested during the protests, but have since been released.

The company was formed in 2005 by Kaliada, her husband Nikolai Khalezin and director Vladimir Shcherban. It performs in secret locations in Belarus, and also creates work in the UK as an associate of the Young Vic in London.

In recent years the company has garnered support from arts figures around the world, including playwright Tom Stoppard, singer Mick Jagger and artist Ai Weiwei.

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