Hitler mustache on Putin bars play from Russian theater festival

A Latvian-Finnish play was barred from participating in the Baltic House Festival in Russia after its makers refused to censor the play that featured a poster showing a caricature of Russian president Vladimir Putin sporting an Adolf Hitler mustache.

The play, titled '3 Musketeers. To East from Vienna', is a joint production between Ģertrūdes ielas teātris (ĢIT) and Finnish Klokrike.

It was invited to the Baltic House Festival in Saint Petersburg after premiering in spring 2016, ĢIT told the press Wednesday.

However, festival representatives asked for the removal of a video fragment showing a poster of a caricature featuring the Russian leader with the characteristic mustache of Adolf Hitler.

"The poster is visible for about 15 seconds in the two-hour play.

Russia is mentioned only passingly–in a few sentences on Russia's role in the Moldovan crisis–while the story about corruption and the Kiev Gang, about the situation in Ukraine at the time, takes up the rest of the time.

However these 15 seconds turned out to be too provocative for the festival," said producer and head of the Klokrike theater Dan Henriksson.

While director Valters Sīlis said that the makers of the play were given a choice whether to agree to the changes or not. "We chose the latter," he said.

Following the refusal they were excluded from participating in the festival.

 '3 Musketeers. To East from Vienna' premiered in Helsinki in April 2016, and in Rīga and Tallinn in May. It received an accolade for artistic boldness at the Hangö festival.

While the Baltic House Festival, featuring modern plays and classical theatrical works, is considered to be one of the most important theater events in Russia. This year it will take place from September 30 to October 13.

This is not the first time theater has played a role in the worsening relationships between Russia and Latvia following Russia's Crimea invasion and fighting in Eastern Ukraine.

In 2014, prominent stage director Alvis Hermanis was made a 'persona non grata' in Russia as part of a response to Latvia banning three popular Russian singers from entering the country.

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