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Theatre review: Sochi 2014 at the Hope Theatre

PUBLISHED: 12:57 20 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:53 20 February 2014

hope theatre

hope theatre

Archant

Here is a play about things that are happening right now. The author has taken her material from interviews with gay, lesbian and transgender people who have suffered the persecution in Russia and has reproduced them word for word.

It begins with a typical TV presenter (Shelley Lang) announcing as if it were a children’s jolly TV show: ‘‘Welcome to the 22nd Winter Olympic Games in Sochi.”

The other actors enter, dressed in coloured track suits and they sing All Hail the Olympics and do crazy dancing around the wooden boxes that make up the setting.

But soon the forced jollity turns into horror as verbatim reports about the cruelty dealt out to the LGBT activists in Putin’s Russia.

Some of the stories are really frightening – such as the treatment of Peter Tatchell MP who received brain damage when he was beaten and imprisoned when he went to Russia to protest about gay rights

Adam Venus as Putin talks of the “Propaganda of non traditional sexual relations that can cause harm to the physical or spiritual development of children.”

Children are taught to hate and fear gay people. To beat them up and even kill them whenever they are found.

This kind of verbatim theatre has been done before in the Laramie Project in 1998 which also dealt with hatred and victimisation of gay people in America and it is remarkably effective and saddening that this kind of persecution can happen in a civilised country in this century.

Interviews were with Russian journalist Marsha Gesson (played by Stephanie Beattie) and Yelena Goltsman who managed to escape, leaving her friends, family and property behind to settle in England as a political refugee.

There are many others – all portrayed by five talented actors, including Alex Gathouse and Jim Scott, who play victims, interrogators and bullies.

This is almost unbearable, violent, cynical and yet it should be watched by as many as possible.

The persecution of gay people is reminiscent of the Nazi persecution of Jews in the 1930s after the Munich Olympic games.

It is heartrending but important to see.

****

Until March 1.

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