Michal Keyamo on working with Belarus Free Theatre and creating Red Forest

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Photo by Bronwen Sharp.

Michal Keyamo, who’ll take to the stage in Red Forest this June, tells us about the five weeks she spent in Cornwall with Belarus Free Theatre as they set about creating their epic new show.

11 March – 16 April 2014
Falmouth, Cornwall

In March, I embarked on a five week residential with Belarus Free Theatre. Safe to say, it was one of the best experiences of my life.  The residential took place at the University of Falmouth’s performance centre, where we began to develop Red Forest.  The days were long, the work intense and challenging creatively, emotionally and physically. 

For five weeks I got to spend time with truly inspirational individuals who come from different walks of life. We were like a big bag of pick ‘n’ mix sweets; fizzy, chewy, tangy, fruity, all of us deliciously different in our own ways but somehow we all gelled and the chemistry was cosmic.  I have never seen theatre be such an important part of peoples’ lives as it is with this company. They risk their lives for causes they believe in and address issues that are swept under the carpet.  A lot of people, including myself, take for granted and underestimate the power of theatre; this company use theatre as a platform for change that has attracted international attention and support from influential figures.  I have had the honour of witnessing their passion and zeal for justice, equality and freedom of expression. I have had the honour of working with experienced, creative talent who are happy to pass on their knowledge to young bucks such as myself.

Even though I had done a three week workshop with the company last year, nothing prepared me for the intensity of this project. These people mean serious business. I was overwhelmed with working with the company as a new member, being far from home in London, listening and absorbing the incredible stories which had to be translated into the show.  It drove home how important this project was for the people whose stories are being told. It drove home how important it is that people are confronted with these stories and shown that these events are happening, and in silence.

BFT have been a family to me and to say they have welcomed me with open arms is an understatement. Who would have thought that little ol’ me who met them for the first time at a workshop less than a year ago would be their lead woman in a production like this.  Thank you for believing in me, thank you for the opportunity.

Red Forest opens at the Young Vic on 12 June and runs until 5 July. Click here to see the trailer or visit www.youngvic.org to book tickets.

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