The sense of apprehension in the auditorium as the audience settles is at odds with an early afternoon show, but not surprising when one considers that we are about to witness Belarus Free Theatre in the very act that has led them to imprisonment and exile, and continues to place their lives in jeopardy. In fact, were we in Belarus we would not be sat in a conventional theatre, but perhaps a makeshift space in a park or apartment, alerted to the performance not by a glossy programme, but by secret text message or email. Even as mere audience members we would be risking arrest.The performers dance, sing, strip, fight and drink their way through a series of short, stilted scenes and intimate vignettes that depict the political and cultural oppression and human rights abuses of life under Lukashenko’s dictatorship, conjuring an immediate and stifling atmosphere of fear, censorship and corruption. In an opening scene the people of Minsk approach the microphone one by one bearing symbols of their sexuality, identity or creed, but before they have chance to speak, they are ripped off stage by a vicious mob, a fate that also befalls a journalist and a man who dares to clap – an action publicly banned in Belarus. In the closing scene the performers speak candidly of their own Belarus and future in the capital of Minsk.Minsk 2011 is a response to Kathy Acker’s text New York City in 1979, and explores sexual and social identity, freedom and expression. It is also about scars, which, we are told, are sexy, and that makes Minsk a sexy city. But despite the erotic dancing and nudity, this is not a sexy performance. It sizzles with anger toward its oppressors and also toward the West for its failure to acknowledge the oppression, and is simultaneously awkward and compelling to watch for the very fact that the cast are revealing their own real scars, and those of Belarusian society. This is largely a literal, occasionally blunt, work, just rough enough around the edges to complement the raw energy and unbridled passion of the performance.