Teatr Doc: Defending human rights on stage



Photo: Teatr Doc

Nature and Youth and the Norwegian Helsinki Committee has invited the Moscow theatre group Teatr Doc to Oslo, to show a new play on Russian human rights defenders. Teatr Doc’s work is political and critical, and this has caused the authorities to take action. In late 2014, they were evicted from their location, and a special anti-extremism police division charged them with a case of extremism. The theater had been screening clips from a documentary on the political turmoil and bloodshed in Ukraine.  Fortunately, the charges were dropped and they found a new place in a former fish shop. At Globaliseringskonferansen in Oslo, Saturday October 29, they will show a new play reflecting the unvarnished reality of everyday life in Russia.

What are you going to show at Globaliseringskonferansen?

– It will be the first premiere abroad of new a play about Russian human rights defenders. At the moment it is called «The last party». It was already presented as a draft play to the audience in Russia, and the final premiere in Moscow will be November 18th.

The play is based on interviews with human rights activists, and the reality of their everyday life as human rights defenders. We have collected 11 interviews from different Russian human right defenders, some of them are known both within and outside of the country, while some are only known in their region or sphere of work.

At Globaliseringskonferansen, the text from the interviews will be followed by real quotes from Russian media and online blogs, saying how bad human rights defenders are, and how much harm they bring the country.

The play will be performed by 5 actors from Teatr.doc, accompanied by Anna Dobrovolskaya, who will be telling her story of personal relations with the interview heroes from the interviews.

We expect that the play will be very interesting for the Moscow public, and that it will meet huge demand and expectations, as people very often don’t know anything about the human rights defenders and hardly have heard about more than one or two names.


Can you tell us more about how it is to work with freedom of expression in Russia today?

– After we had created and played our earlier documentary play about the prisoners of the «Bolotnaya» case, our theater was expelled from the premises and cut from all the existing state and municipal grants. Now we have to survive on our own, and by very sporadic support from our Western donors as well as crowdfunding campaigns among Russian citizens.

At the same time, in this situation we have no other boundaries and may really play what we want. We have for example presented the play «Coming out of the closet», which is about LGBT people in Russia, and it became extremely popular among the Moscow audience. We also have a play about the conflict in Ukraine, and the human rights violations and repressions in Crimea, called «The war is near», which is very well known both among the theater public, media and the audience.

Sometimes actors don’t feel comfortable with the topics and may refuse to take part in the plays. Then we find someone who has no personal contradictions, and who is not afraid to speak out.

For further information, read an interview with Elena Gremina, chairwoman of the theater, here.


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Filed under Rettigheter, Russlandprosjektet

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