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UKRAINE: Ukraine’s underground theater

Actresses rehearse their roles on Thursday at the underground Mykolaiv Drama Theatre in Ukraine. Photo: AFP for the Taipei Times

"’It’s an opening night like no other at Mykolaiv’s theater, with the audience ushered down into an underground shelter this week for the first performance since war broke out.

“We need this place to fight on the cultural front too,” artistic director Artiom Svytsoun says.

The tiny underground stage and the minimalist set provides “a form of ‘art therapy’” for the people who have stayed in Mykolaiv and need something other than the grinding fear of war.


The company is used to playing in a 450-seater theater. Now the plays are being adapted and squeezed into the “stage in the shelter,” as it is called. But despite the war, it is not just about performing patriotic works. After a curtain-raiser paying tribute to Ukraine, the first play of the new season, by a contemporary national author, is an absurdist play about “the realization of our desires”, says Svytsoun.

The bunker theater will put on two shows a day, from Thursday to Sunday, much to the delight of theatergoer Olga Kroutchok. “I hope to come back every weekend. Theater brings emotions to people in these times of war, and it makes our lives easier,” said the 55-year-old.

Fellow audience member Oleksander Skotnikov, 42, agrees. “When we are under the bombs, as we are now, the theater gives us a big smile and inspires people to keep on living.”

Read the full article in the Taipei Times here


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