Belarus Free Theatre productions aren't for the faint hearted or those seeking a nice linear narrative. This production in particular is a physical, poetic, brutal and raw mixture of performance art, verbatim narrative, film archive, audience interaction - and a conversation in the toilets at the Kremlin.
Maria Alyokhina, one of two members of Pussy Riot jailed for 'hooliganism', joins the cast for the piece which explores art and freedom in a repressive regime. Her experiences in prison together with that of Russian performance artist Petr Pavlensky and Ukrainian film maker Oleg Sentsov make up the three 'acts' of the play.
The brutality of life within the Russian justice system is played out, the strip searches and beatings physically represented as are what it represents psychologically and metaphorically. A man who is pushed down keeps getting up, the repetition of such actions demonstrating the relentlessness of the routine and the stamina it takes to resist and to survive.
Through the physicality of the performance - and the actors certainly work up a sweat - comes the poetry, the strength of spirit and the determination not to be ground down and an exploration of what freedom actually is. All three 'prisoners' are artists who use their art as an expression of protest, as a political statement, once that means of expression is taken away from them, what remains?
It is a demanding piece and like the first production of BFT's I saw - Minsk 2011 - I'm not going to pretend I understood everything and at times that can feel a little alienating but overall, as a piece of theatre, it has a powerful essence.
Burning Doors is one hour and 45 minutes long without an interval and I'm giving it four stars. It is on at the Soho Theatre until 24 September and then continues it's UK tour before heading to Italy and Melbourne.