Ben Whishaw West End return confirmed
Updated: Stan's handy guide to what's actually on at London theatres during the Olympics

Minsk, 2011: much to be admired if not wholly understood.

ImageI'm not going to pretend that I understood everything that was going on at the Young Vic's Maria Studio on Thursday night but whatever it was, it was affecting.

Performing in Russian the Belarus Free Theatre Company present a series of events in Minsk through movement and dialogue (with subtitles) from the clapping demonstrations to the underground bomb and more subtle depictions of the authorities attitude towards homosexuality and prostitution.

It leaves you in no uncertain terms that Belarus is a hard place to live, an oppressive place and I was beginning to wonder where the connection, the loyalty and love sprung from between the performers and the place that has persecuted and in some cases banished them.

But it was there, subtly at first and then more firmly as each of the actors spoke in turn about what Minsk meant to them at the end.

Minsk, 2011 is a curious and at times odd piece that isn't helped by the the subtitles. They are projected quite high at the back of the stage so you often have to choose to read the dialogue or watch what is going on. With the former, when there is a conversation it sometimes got confusing as to who was saying what and with the latter you'd lose the complete sense of the action by missing the words.

There is one particular scene where one of the actresses strips off naked and is painted black with decorating rollers by the rest of the cast. Then she is wrapped from head to toe in white paper. All the time this was going on she is speaking and from trying to follow the dialogue and what was going on below - it certainly had visual impact - the whole sequence was, well, lost in translation. I have no idea of the point it was making. 

Despite this, I couldn't help feeling a lot of good will and admiration for the performers. What they do, in a socio-political context, is very brave something that is cemented when at the curtain call the artistic director requested donations so the company can go back to Belarus and perform underground.

I'm going to give Minsk, 2011 four stars. It is a difficult watch and not only for content but you can't ignore its heart. It runs at the Maria Studio at the Young Vic until June 23.