New play highlights plight of gay people in Russia

Posted Sep 2, 2013 by Mathew Wace Peck
As part of the ongoing campaign to highlight Russia’s ever-growing intolerance to its own citizens, a new play detailing the lives of LGBT people in that country has premiered in London.
A gay pride event in Russia
A gay pride event in Russia
valya Egorshin
Sochi 2014, which opened in London last night at the King’s Head Theatre for two days only, features stories from 20 or so lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Russians. It is named after the Winter Olympic Games, which are due to be held in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.
The playwright, Tess Berry-Hart, wrote it in the past two and a half weeks, after taking first-person accounts from them. The tales include descriptions of the anti-gay abuse and arrests orchestrated by the Russian authorities.
One story, as reported by GSN, concerns Nikolai, who was arrested four years ago at a gay-pride rally. In Nicolai’s own words:
I face homophobic prejudice from ordinary people every day. It’s [the] everyday life of gays in Russia. We always hear homophobic jokes harassing us and it is regarded as absolutely normal. Sometimes it can be enough just to not look like others; you will be named, "faggot".
Berry-Hart says that she hopes her play, with its cross-section of stories, will “give a bigger picture of life for the gay community in Russia”.
Earlier this year, Russia’s President Vladimir Putin pushed through new anti-gay laws that make it a criminal offence to promote non-heterosexual relationships. As a result, as reported extensively in Gay Star News and elsewhere, violence against sexual and gender minorities have increased dramatically.
The Putin-backed anti-gay laws have attracted criticism and outrage from around the world, including calls on the International Olympic Committee to strip Russia of the 2014 Winter Games. In August, the British actor, writer and presenter Stephen Fry met with the UK’s Prime Minister David Cameron, to try to persuade him to back a boycott of the Sochi Games. Cameron declined.
In the US, Wentworth Miller – the screenwriter and star of Prison Breakdeclined an invitation to be guest of honour at Russia’s St Petersburg International Film Festival, saying, “I cannot in good conscience participate in a celebratory occasion hosted by a country where people like myself are being systematically denied their basic right to live and love openly.”
Meanwhile, the New Zealand speed skater, Blake Skjellerup, says he hopes to attend the Sochi Games, adding, “I was in the closet for a long time and who I am now is who I really am and who I always will be. If it gets me in trouble, then I guess so be it.”
Other campaigns have included statements made by Beware of Images and the Belgian designer, Kristof Buntinx.