Saturday, April 13

HUNCHtheatre – An extract from ‘Second-Hand Time’ by Svetlana Alexievich

In support of the people of Belarus, HUNCHtheatre present this short video of an extract from ‘Second-Hand Time’, written by Svetlana Alexievich, and performed by acclaimed British actress Kristin Milward.

HUNCHtheatre is an internationally acclaimed company based in London, set up by Vladimir Shcherban and Oliver Bennett three years ago. They launched a department in Minsk, HUNCHtheatre Belarus, run by independent artists and LGBTI+ activists. Their first show was an underground performance of ‘Left Dissidents’ which started life in a private living room in 2018. It was listed as one of the top five theatre performances in Belarus by an independent jury. They have since conducted numerous readings, including a play about the murdered Soviet director Meyerhold at ‘Theatre.doc’, the most famous underground theatre in Moscow, with members of Pussy Riot. Their latest show ‘Scattering Ravens’, about the Belarusian-Jewish poet Moshe Kulbak who was killed by the NKVD, was made in extremely difficult circumstances during the wave of protests in September 2020 and broadcast around the world. Shows are rehearsed remotely online from London to Minsk. The recent protests and mass arrests in Belarus have made it almost impossible for them to work.

Svetlana Alexievich is a citizen of Belarus and is the only remaining member of the Board of the Co-ordination Council of Belarus to be at liberty. The other members have either been imprisoned or fled the country. Alexievich has written many books with the focus on real people and she allows their voices to be heard in her books. For her contribution to literature she won the Nobel Prize in 2015 and many more awards have been forthcoming.

In this extract from her book ‘Second-Hand Time’, we hear the story of Tanya Kuleshova, who in 2010 was involved in a demonstration against a rigged election in Belarus. Vladimir Shcherban, co-founder of HUNCHtheatre, introduces the video. He was also at this demonstration and it led to him leaving Belarus. Following the re-election of President Alexander Lukashenko in August 2020 in a quite obviously rigged election, the people once again decided to protest, and the backlash was more violent than in 2010. 

Kuleshova went along to what she thought was a peaceful protest with her friends and wrongly believed that she was protected by the freedom laws of the country. She thought that at worst they may have to spend a short time in prison, but the Police arrived in full riot gear and had no intention of treating them well. Kuleshova witnessed many people being beaten and taken away. She herself was taken into custody and was treated without dignity and pressurised into admitting to being guilty of rioting.  She served her time in jail in inhumane conditions and thankfully lived to tell her tale.

Many Belarusian’s experienced similar or worse treatment in 2010 and in August 2020, and their persecution continues. 

By sharing this video, it will continue to shine a spotlight on the plight of the Belarusian people. HUNCHtheatre Belarus are now finding it very difficult to work at all, as are many other independent theatre companies. They are trying to work together to see how they can survive and now urgently need solidarity from artists around the world.

So please help HUNCHtheatre spread the word, watch and share the film by following this link