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Kyiv Theatrical at War

Alex Borovenskiy, a theatre director in Kyiv, Ukraine reflects on new theatre being born at war. 

Before full-scale war Kyiv was a blooming theatre city. It boasted around 100 theatres, big and small, state and independent ones. Theatres of Kyiv were a legend. To visit Ivan Franko Theatre was a tradition every visitor of the city should go with. Tickets were bought in advance and houses were full often.

Russian invasion changed it all. Within 3 days after Feb 24 all theatres of Kyiv shut down. Some of them like Suzirja and Ivan Franko Theatre restructured themselves into humanitarian aid centres, ProEnglish Theatre was hosting people in its bomb shelter premises.

Photo from “The Book of Sirens” premiere in the bomb shelter
Photo from “The Book of Sirens” premiere in the bomb shelter

But most of the theatres simply shut down. Some of the actors joined territorial defence forces or the army, some fled to the West of Ukraine or left the country. Theatre ceased to exist for several weeks.

And in several week it has reborn. Maskamrad theatre conducted a performance for its neighbours, a performance was conducted next to the elevator area in the residential block.

ProEnglish Theatre presented “The New World Order” and “The Book of Sirens” staged from the bomb shelter in March. New cultural venue – Pidval Kultury (the basement of culture) has opened. State theatres started coming back, first at small stages and interrupting performances each time there is an air raid siren.

New performances, stage readings of contemporary Ukrainian plays, rediscovery of forgotten Ukrainian heritage, strong influence of modern European theatre – that’s what you can see on Ukrainian stage these day. From the basement theatres to air raid siren intermission.

New theatre is being born at War.

Alex is President of World of English Speaking Theatres, follow them on Twitter.

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