July 25, 2021

In Moscow, the engaged theater forced to go underground

LETTER FROM MOSCOW

“Please, if you want to post on social media that you are coming to see the play, do not give any indication of location!” ” The warning is all the more incongruous in that it emanates from the director of the said play, Neighbors, which one would imagine quicker to gather crowds.

It must be said that Sergei Gindilis has enough to be scalded. Two weeks earlier, the premiere of his show, on the premises of the Teatr.doc, was interrupted at the 34e minute. Police irruption, bomb threat… All of this provoking (yellow) laughter from the spectators. Because in Russia, bomb threats have been a classic for years when it comes to interrupting a disturbing spectacle. That evening, the actors briefly tried to continue the performance in the street, before being chased away.

Nervousness

Two weeks later, for the second attempt to play Neighbors, the affair takes on the appearance of a conspiracy. Appointment was given on a secure messaging, at the last moment, at a suburban metro station. The play will be performed in a café with a secret name.

The day before, the theater again received warnings from people posing as members of the security services. In the morning, the emergency services, then the firefighters came, and they warned that others would follow, until the evening. Illusory to hope to play under normal conditions.

We are May 19 and for the French spectator, the date necessarily has a certain flavor. At the same time, social networks are filling up with images of queues in front of theaters and cinemas. Russia has only very briefly closed its places of culture, contenting itself with reduced gauges. Coronavirus-related mortality soared there but life took its course. This evening of May 19, the theater is not confined there, but clandestine.

Also read the analysis: Faced with Covid-19, Russia has made a thousand-year-old choice: the state rather than the citizen

What is this piece that arouses such nervousness? “Sosedy”, Neighborsrecounts the repression in neighboring Belarus during the few days of August 2020 following the fraudulent election of Alexander Lukashenko. Seven actors play Belarusian citizens arrested in Minsk and in the provinces, then detained in inhuman conditions. There is a mother who was looking for her missing son, an Israeli tourist on the move in his country of origin, a police officer who refused violence …

Beatings, rapes, mock execution

A young man just over 18, a protester, said: “They were hitting me with sticks and kicks and I hear, ‘What’s your shoe size?’ They were sharing my clothes. There, I was afraid. “

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