“Going to Magadan” – is a book by the well-known political prisoner anarchist Igor Olinevich, which he wrote when he was serving his first sentence in Belarus. Recently, the Czech theater 3 + KK made a production based on this work, which can be seen in Warsaw on November 13-14 at the Druga Stefa Theater. “Not Today, Not Yesterday, Not Tomorrow” talked to the creators of the production Adam Steinbauer and Libor Brzobohatý about why they were inspired by Oliniewicz’s story and what to expect from the production.
Hello, can you introduce yourself?
Adam: My name is Adam Steinbauer, I am theater director and in my work I focus on both dramatical and non-dramatical materials. In the last couple of years, I have been mainly working on authorial theater performances – often based on novels and diaries. Nowadays, I focus both on authorial theater and interpretative drama. In my work, it is important for me to reflect on topics that are actual in contemporary society. I aim to build a mirror for the society we are living in.
During the season 2019/2020, I initiated the creation of a new theatre which later evolved into the 3+kk Theatre, officially established in the fall of 2020. From the beginning until this June, I was artistic director of the 3+kk Theatre. Now, I work as the director of this theatre and in December 2023 I am leaving 3+kk Theater and I will only work as a director – freelancer. So these are one of my last days in the 3+kk Theatre.
Libor: My name is Libor Brzobohatý, I am a theater dramaturgist and publicist and co-founder of 3+kk Theatre. Currently I am the artistic director in 3+kk Theatre. I focus on socially and politically critical authors’ theatre. I also work as director in chief in a methodological magazine about free-time education published by the Czech scouting organisation and a lecturer of climate education in an NGO called NaZemi.
I also identify as an anarchist and political activist.
Tell us about your theater?
Adam: 3+kk Theatre was founded in the fall of 2020 as a reaction to the very rigid state of the theatre scene in Brno. We wanted to do things differently, we didn’t want to rely on existing structures. We wished to do real – FREE – autonomous art. We created five performances – three of them are still on the repertoire. Our performance Orten! was awarded a prize of the Theatre Newspaper in 2020.
How did you come up with the idea of making a play based on Igor Olinevich’s book “Going to Magadan”?
Adam: Libor Brzobohatý – those days a dramaturgist of the 3+kk Theatre came up with the idea during 2014. We were discussing it for several years and when we saw the massive police brutality during the demonstrations in 2020, we thought that the right time to get things moving is now.
Libor: I remember reading the book some time in 2014, maybe 2013 and being struck by how on point and suggestive it is. Next to reading anarchist political theory and philosophy it was very inspiring to read about anarchist practice from this world and age. The main motivation for me was the very blurry and negative image anarchism has in contemporary Czech society. I thought that if there is someone able to explain, what anarchist really stand for and what can be the cost of really living up to those values, it is Igor through his book.
Is it a production based on the book or a sketch of selected texts from it? What will the play be about?
Adam: It is a play about freedom in an unfree world. It is about the strength of the mind of this incredible person. We have chosen quite a large part of Igor’s diary, but during the devising proces, we have also worked with the fact that Igor was a LARP fan. This fact helped us to create the whole imaginary world that is living inside Igor’s head. So we wrote down a kind of classical fantasy with the main character Ihar. This fantasy line is opposing the depressing reality of Belorusian prison.
Libor: Yeah, the core of the performance is Igors’ description of the reality in a Belarusian prison, the reality of being considered a terrorist in the state you live in. But as Adam mentioned, the most inspiring part of Igors’ story is his moral integrity and strength to withstand the brutality he is exposed to. This strength seemed so unimaginable – in an almost fantastic way – so we decided to immerse the very real world of state terror into the fantasy world of an anarchist utopia – of a Tolkien-like story about the fight between the Good and the Evil.
In which language will it be performed?
Libor: We will perform in Czech language, with smaller improvised parts in English, while using Polish and Belarusian subtitles.
Who plays in the play?
Adam: One of the best czech young actors – Mark Kristián Hochman.
Libor: The performance is a monodrama, which means all the characters are depicted by only one actor, our friend and very talented colleague Mark Kristián Hochman.
Why did Igor Olenevich’s book “Going to Magadan” attract your attention?
Adam: For me, Igor Olenevich’s diaries are quite similar to the diaries of political prisoners of the Communist regime in the Czech Republic. Even though, it is relatively a long time ago, you can see that the methods in prisons are still the same… For me, it was very interesting and terrifying, that it is still happening TODAY, not so far away from us.
Libor: It was very inspiring to me to read a story about a crucial and very meaningful political struggle – although very painful and costly – that is happening so close to us. I often get frustrated by the feeling that the social and political situation in the Czech republic is getting worse every year and I see very little ways to do something about it. That is, I think, caused mainly by the romanticized image of the Velvet revolution (the almost nonviolent fall of Communist regime in Czechoslovakia). Western democracy practically fell into our hands in 1989 and the majority of Czech society is now unable to accept any radical approaches to social or political change. So seeing Belarusian (and Russian!) anarchists fighting with everything they’ve got is therefore filling me both with worry about the consequences and with hope that a real political struggle for a different world is still meaningful. I am certain that stories like Igors’ are exactly what we need to hear more in the Czech republic.
In which countries has the play been performed?
Libor: So far only in the Czech republic. We are delighted that the first performance abroad will be for Polish and Belarusian audiences!
What do you know about the political situation in Belarus?
Libor: I dare to say that in the past several years we delved quite deep into the topic of Belarusian struggle for freedom – and not only in the preparatory phase of the performance. The situation in Belarus has become quite important and personal for us since then. We met a lot of very strong and inspiring people from Belarus and we continue – through the performance and also other activities – to support the people affected by the situation with every means we have at hand.
Did you know about the case of “Anarchy Partisan” in which Igor Olenevich is involved? If so, how did you find out about this case?
Libor: Yes, the second imprisonment of Igor and his comrades happened during the preparations of our performance and it only supported our motivation and vigor to tell the story.
What do you think about the fact that in Belarus the participants of “Anarchy Partisans”, including Igor Olenevich, are recognised as terrorists?
Libor: Since everyone who disagrees with Lukashenko is a terrorist according to the state I think it only underlines the hypocrisy and illegitimacy of the current regime. What concerns the tactics of anarcho-partisans, I will just borrow the words of Martin Luther King Jr. – violence is the language of the unheard.
How was the play about a Belarusian political prisoner received in the Czech Republic?
Adam: Very well. People are often afraid that it is going to be very hard and serious, but I think that we were quite successful in our effort to make the performance more colorful than is the reality of today’s Belarus.
Libor: I was quite worried about the reactions to the anarchist background of the story – as anarchism is not really understood in the Czech republic as I have mentioned – but I was relieved that it seems the circumstances and reasons behind Igors’ and others’ views speak for themselves.
Is it a common practice for you to support political prisoners?
Adam: This was our first time. The second time was our donation to Nesehnutí when the war in Ukraine began.
Libor: As Adam said, I am going to Magadan is our first performance about a contemporary political topic, but the support of people facing oppression has become almost an integral part of our activities. Next to the ongoing support of Belarusian political prisoners we participate with a Czech NGO Nesehnutí in support of people affected by the Putins’ invasion of Ukraine.
Are there political prisoners in the Czech Republic?
Libor: I don’t think there are any at the moment but just a couple of years earlier there has actually been two cases regarding the anarchist movement in Czech republic that were in several ways very similar to the ones in Belarus. The Phoenix case concerned several anarchists and their alleged plan to perform a terrorist attack on a train, another one charged an anarchist and a Russian citizen Oleg Ševcov of alleged attack on the house of the Czech Interior Minister. The cases were – after several years of bullying by the police and courts and imprisonment – found to be completely fabricated by the police secret agents and provocateurs. So it seems that the at least in the ways of eliminating its political oponents, western democracy and authoritarian regimes in Russia and Belarus have still more in common then they are willing to admit.
Will there be support for Igor Olinevich from the sale of tickets?
Libor: Unfortunately the profits coming from tickets is needed to cover the expenses of the performance and our travels since we have no other means of financing the trip but there will be an opportunity to donate money directly to political prisoners in Belarus – after all as well as during our performances in the Czech republic.
What would you wish to the Belarusian people and political prisoners?
Adam: Freedom, dignity and safety.
Libor: Unity, hope and the will to keep on fighting.
P.S. You can support Igor Olenevich through ABC Belarus – https://abc-belarus.org/en/2020/10/30/ihar-alinevich/.
You can read about ABC Belarus by clicking on the link – https://nottoday.media/activism/abc-belarus-eng.