The power of the performance “Chernobyl” by the theatre “Kryly Halopa” in directing of Aksana Haiko is in scrupulous identifying of the problem and in a desire to start an open conversation with the public. Unlike today’s media, a theatre goes deeper, shows problems from the perspective of the various eyewitnesses, removes the prism from the surface of perception and gives the events due importance.
Specific form, which was similar to structures of documentary theatre, had lack of a theatrical element (although by and large theatre deliberately refused it). Actors, using basic stage techniques, managed to create an intercommunity with the audience and at the same time to design the performance. The unite link was the refusal of fiction and presentation of the authentic materials related to the accident at RBMK-1000 reactor in Chernobyl – the disaster concerned Ukrainian, Russian and Belarusian people. Diligently collected documents, quotes from online forums, the interviews with the liquidators (relocated victims of radiation) and the personal stories of the characters emotionally affected the viewer. The audience was immersed in a continuous flow of information that is why sometimes was a lack of time for focusing on the theatre measurement of the stage events. Narrative lines divided into two and three: projection reportage from Chernobyl Zone, actors’ sketches, live webcast from a working camera – everything was happening simultaneously.
Rectangular, white screens were the background of the theatrical actions – projected on them videos, slides, photographs and drawings were sending to the explosion of the nuclear reactor. The reconstruction of the facts and the search for the truth were joined in a certain line, similar to the nature of the investigation.
Both reaction of the authority structures and the public passivity or blindness about the 10-fold excess of the norms of radiation were estimated in the performance. Manipulations of the state caused people’s confusion and endless migrations in the search of a safe place to live in, which was clean from uranium and graphite radiation. “The investigation” had the polyphonic character of condemnation and opposition of an individual. The creators of the performance, wishing to be objective, were interweaving negative voices by fragments protecting the construction of new nuclear power plants on the territory of the former USSR.
The actors alternately were embodying in the roles of victims, simply quoting recorded interviews, which had been collected during the process of working on the performance. All together it was carrying a huge charge of authenticity and sincerity. Despite the monotony of the monologues, they were not tedious for the viewer, who absorbed newer and newer information, becoming the eyewitness of the stories of people, who were fighting the effects of the radiation – looking for medical care, refuge, who were confused in front of danger, counting only on themselves… Official government posts: quotes from Belarusian newspapers, statistics about the consequences of the Chernobyl accident – appeared as inserts among the various sketches.
The performance “Chernobyl” is certainly an important voice of a young generation, the generation of opportunists existing in the conditions of the Belarusian system. Its mission is to awake public consciousness and to persuade it to talk about the problem, which, in spite of 28 years, still affects the lives of people in Belarus.
The director, Aksana Haiko, gives the floor to people, who won’t be heard by anyone, speaks about the events, which haven’t waited for the public debate… The most important criterion of the documentary theatre was reached – the performance effectually provoked a viewer on further thinking.
Pawel Wrona, the newspaper of the International Theatre Festival “Masks” (Poznan, Poland)