Preview: Sochi, King’s Head Theatre, N1

Sochi 2014 Spreadbury-Maher

Sochi 2014 Spreadbury-Maher - Credit: Archant

The Olympics in London last year was more than a celebration of sport, it was a celebration of each and every person that played some part in it.

But following the implementation of a new anti-gay law in Russia, many have questioned if the Winter Games in the country’s ski resort of Sochi next February can achieve the same – and there have been widespread calls for a boycott including a campaign by actor Stephen Fry.

Now, a rapid response play – Sochi 2014 – is arriving at the King’s Head Theatre in Islington, this weekend to protest against the new legislation under the government’s Propaganda of Non-traditional Sexual Relation Bill, which makes it illegal for any under-18 to be given information on homosexuality.

Playwright Tess Berry-Hart has collected verbatim voices of LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) Russians, providing a powerful and affecting testimony from those who have been attacked and prosecuted for ‘‘spreading homosexual propaganda’’.

Artistic director of the Upper Street theatre, Adam Spreadbury-Mayer, who commissioned the piece, said: “As an artistic director of theatre I do feel a burden of responsibility that the work that we do must ­address the world we’re living in.

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“I’ve been deeply troubled by this situation in Eastern Europe and Russia for a long time, I just thought with the Olympics in Russia next year it’s an excellent opportunity for the international community to turn their attention to the state of human rights, particularly in regards to the LGBT community in Russia.” He continued: “The beauty of verbatim is there are so many resources around now because of the international coverage so politicians, victims, celebrities, law makers on both sides of the border, anything they say, you can use so it’s really quite powerful.

“The challenge for us is getting access to Russian speaking people from Russia itself but Tess is very good at eliciting these.”

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Unlike the LGBT community here, Spreadbury-Mayer said Russians they had spoken to fear they must pretend to be heterosexual – and that the number of homosexual attacks in their homeland are on the rise due to the new laws. Gay activists have been prosecuted and there have been reports of homosexual parents fleeing the country for fear of having their children taken away.

“If people think you are homosexual it is legal to attack you,” said Spreadbury-Mayer. “It would be illegal to be seen as promoting homosexuality. Olympians could have their medals taken off them for so much as wearing a LGBT pin.”

In just three weeks, as many stories as possible were collated and crafted into a piece of theatre – a live document which Spreadbury-Mayer hopes can stay alive as the story continues to evolve internationally.

“It’s the most powerful form of theatre to affect change, for an audience who wants to understand more, from factual, not fictional, voices,” he added.

“It is for us to put pressure on our leaders, write to MPs, to speak more loudly, bang the drum harder. This is not for just gay people, it’s for anyone who values human rights.”

n Sochi 2014 at the King’s Head on Sunday (September 1) and Monday. Tickets cost £15. Call 020 7478 0160 or visit to book

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