Russian political activist and member of the infamous punk group Pussy Riot, Maria Alyokhina, is performing her theatre debut with a refugee-led theatre company.

Belarus Free Theatre (BFT), the only theatre in Europe banned on political grounds, is presenting Burning Doors that premieres in Leicester Curve in August.


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Alyokhina is a member of Pussy Riot, the balaclava-wearing female punk group. The band made headlines in 2012 when their performance at a Moscow cathedral led to their trial and imprisonment.

Nicolai Khalezin, one of BFT’s founding artistic director and a political refugee in the UK, said Alyokhina’s performance in Burning Doors means: “We have at least one real witness who has lived through all of the different stages of a repressive mechanism of a state-sanctioned oppressive regime.

“I think that both for our acting ensemble and our audiences it will make the experience even stronger.”

Burning Doors’ UK tour opens on 23 August, and will aim to illuminate the role of contemporary artists in dictatorial societies inspired by Alyokhina, Russian actionist and political artist Petr Pavlensky and incarcerated Ukrainian film-maker, Oleg Sentsov.

Khalezin commented on the performance: “Within each of these three personal stories, there is huge amount of different types of violence: emotional, psychological, physical.

“The first aim of the show is to attempt to immerse the audience into the underworld of now, and to show the real violence that is still part of the everyday in that part of the world. The second aim is to reveal a theme of the hypocritical attitudes of politicians (from both sides of the conflict: Russia and the West) to the destinies of contemporary artists.”

On 1 June BTF started a Kickstarter campaign to raise £20,000 to bring the BFT ensemble, based in Minsk, to the UK.

Burning Doors will play at Leicester Curve (23 – 27 August), Soho Theatre (31 August – 24 September, national press night: Friday 2 September), Dartington Hall (28 & 29 September), Falmouth University (1 October), Contact Theatre, Manchester (10 – 12 October) and New Theatre Royal, Portsmouth (14 October).

Image credit: Georgie Weedon