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Avowed authority of high art

Brest hosts 18th International Belaya Vezha Theatre Festival, gathering actors from 14 countries 
By Yuri Butrimovich

The first day of the festival saw the Brest Drama Theatre filled to capacity for the opening event. The Chairman of the Brest Regional Executive Committee, Konstantin Sumar, gave an opening speech, noting that the Festival now has national importance. “As in previous years, we’ve tried to keep the fine traditions born by our Festival, which has gained popularity with people from around the world. They know that participating brings prestige and status,” noted Mr. Sumar.

The opening was followed by two performances: Who Laughs Last by Kondrat Krapiva, performed by Minsk Theatre-Studio of Film Actors, and Queen of Spades, by the Grodno Puppet Theatre. Audiences were encouraged to leave their tickets in either a black or white box at the end of the performance, to denote dislike or approval.

Over the eight-day event, 23 performances were given, including an amazing staging of Portraits of Polish Kings, by the Helena Modrzejewska Narodowy Stary Theatre (National Old Theatre) from Krakуw. Antibodies, by the Baltic House Theatre, also aroused great interest. This was the first year that prizes were awarded by critics and the organising committee, rather than an independent jury, and other novelties were also in evidence. These included literary readings on the play Blockhead, by Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk, and on A Couple of Poor, Polish-Speaking Romanians, by Dorota Masłowska. Master classes were conducted by Krzysztof Garbaczewski, the director of Portraits of Polish Kings, by Konstantin Mishin, from the Moscow School of Dramatic Arts, and by critic Roman Pawłowski.

The Festival programme was very eventful. On 8th September alone, the Polesie Drama Theatre, from Pinsk, performed children’s play The Story of Baba-Yaga Rescuing a Fairy Tale, and Moscow’s School of Dramatic Art gave us Mtsyri — based on the poem by M. U. Lermontov. That evening, on Lenin Square, there was a street performance of Salto Mortale, by Teatr Strefa Ciszy, from Poland’s Poznań. Tackling the chaos, absurdity and madness of the Second World War, when not only cultural treasures but, even, equipment from factories was stolen from Poland, the audience awarded the actors with storms of applause. In addition, the Lvov’s Voskresinnya Theatre and the Swedish Theatre’s Reich+Shyber were performed free of charge. 

Many spectators have called this year’s programme the most interesting to date. Lyudmila Gromyko, a theatrical critic and the editor-in-chief of Art magazine, believes that Belaya Vezha is constantly developing. She tells us, “Besides the usual performances, there were a number of master classes and meetings with well-known theatrical figures: in particular, with Krzysztof Garbaczewski — one of the best young Polish directors. Brest residents and visitors were presented with Belarusian performances which have received the national theatrical award; this is very important for spectators.”

Brest’s Belaya Vezha Festival has been held since 1996, gathering theatre groups from more than 50 countries. This year was certainly no exception in surprising and delighting audiences, placing the event firmly on the international map.
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