Never seeing the person you love again—this is the harrowing reality facing Ira in Discover Love, a performance I had the privilege to see the Belarus Free Theatre perform last night. After a lifetime of struggle, poverty, and surviving with barely a moment to talk, Ira’s husband Tolya is kidnapped and executed. Giddy childhood memories, the street community, falling in love with her physics teacher—a rich patchwork of a life is stitched together like Ira’s grandmother’s cheerful patchwork quilt, with vibrant dancing, a haunting ocarina and a box of oranges. All is dashed when one life out of so many is removed.
Somehow it seems like the very struggle for existence makes life richer and more meaningful. The poverty, the daily resistance, the bold eastern European culture set amidst the repression of a former Soviet republic have a guilty romanticism. When another man approaches Tolya and asks him to leave Ira, Tolya quietly, in his beautiful curling language that sounds like softly warbling doves, explains, ‘I love my wife, and we have struggled so much to be here now. It would be best if you left.’
Somehow, the idea that such passionate, salt of the earth people could want our gaudy consumer-driven lives, could want to move to such a bland, banal country as our own, is a let down. Yes, we have opportunity, and wealth, and freedom to choose—freedom, indeed, to perform theatre, while members of the Belarus Free Theatre are exiled from their own country—and we would never wish the agonies portrayed in Discover Love on our brothers and sisters abroad. But what is this fine line between living hungrily, purposefully and meaningfully, and living under hardship and fear? Is it possible for us to live so intentionally in complete freedom? Our freedom makes our challenges trifles. If only we could learn from Tolya that ‘one shouldn’t cry over trifles’.
The resounding declaration from Discovering Love is that ‘Every person is free. No one rules over anyone else.’ Not husbands, not employers, not states.
Discover Love is showing at the Brisbane Powerhouse Theatre until Sunday 19 February, 7.30pm; Sunday 1pm, 6pm, with a free Q&A session following Saturday’s performance. $25-$30.
* Our homemade spice rack, replete with old cook books from my mum.