‘The world’s most visible and lionized underground theatre.’ New York Times

Belarus Free Theatre is the only theatre company in Europe banned by its government on political grounds.

Founded in Minsk in 2005, BFT emerged as a direct challenge to the absolute censorship of freedom of artistic expression in “Europe’s Last Dictatorship”. 

The company was quickly forced underground, faced with harassment and persecution for its role in challenging the status quo and demanding recognition for those hidden on the margins of an oppressive society.

In 2011, the company’s three artistic leaders, Natalia Kaliada, Nicolai Khalezin and Vladimir Shcherban, were forced into exile. Becoming political refugees in the UK, BFT was given a home in the Young Vic, London, and became an associate company of Falmouth University.

Since then Belarus Free Theatre has worked across borders to create, campaign and educate – building a movement for democratisation, human rights and artistic freedom.

In Minsk, where the company is outlawed, BFT’s permanent ensemble continues to perform over 100 times each year. Every day the company carry out teaching and education projects for young artists and activists through its academy Studio Fortinbras. Rehearsing between the UK and Belarus by Skype, the company performs in temporary, underground spaces, constantly on the run. BFT’s audience, “the bravest audiences in the world”, face potential arrest and detention simply for turning up to a performance attending a performance.

Internationally, Belarus Free Theatre tour, perform and campaign extensively for social justice and the protection of people stigmatised and ostracised by their societies. To-date BFT has to-date created more than 25 productions and performed in over 40 countries. In 2015 alone it performed to live audiences of over 10,000 people internationally, and more than 500,000 viewed online performances of its work.

Belarus Free Theatre believes that although dictatorship and restrictions to free expression exist in their absolute form in Belarus, we must continue to challenge and resist the limits to artistic freedom and barriers to mutual understanding wherever they occur.

Belarus Free Theatre has enjoyed the support and solidarity of fellow artists including the late Harold Pinter and Vaclav Havel; Sir Tom Stoppard, David Lan, Steven Spielberg, Jude Law, Kevin Spacey, Mick Jagger, Jeremy Irons, Emma Thompson, Joanna Lumley, Vivienne Westwood, Kim Cattrall, Ian McKellen and Samuel West.

‘Art matters. And it's hard to think of a theatre company that has proved that more than Belarus Free Theatre.’ Huffington Post

‘Hard-hitting, essential and furious, BFT keep political theatre alive and kicking.’ The Guardian

‘Every time they perform, it is a clear victory for artistic freedom and human rights.’ Kevin Spacey