Play performance in Daugavpils sparks controversy

The premiere of a play launching the new theatrical season at Daugavpils Theater has become the center of a controversy involving both the theater itself and the Ukrainian embassy in Latvia, reports LSM's Russian-language service.

The performance in question is "Truce" based on the play of the same name by Aleksey Kuraleh, who is from Donetsk in Ukraine, which is currently under illegal occupation by Russia. 

A few hours before the start of the premiere on October 6, the Embassy of Ukraine in Latvia published a statement on the social network Facebook categorically condemning the staging of the play, stating that it was based on elements of Russian propaganda and Kremlin narratives, as well as questioning the author's integrity with regard to Russia's responsibility for the war in Ukraine and his allegiance. His works continue to be staged in Russia, the embassy noted. 

The Daugavpils Theater published a response on Facebook rejecting the Ukrainian embassy's accusations, saying the play was about the cruelty of war and man's ability or inability to maintain his humanity. It also noted that a reading-performance of the same play took place in April 2022 (video recording available here) with the support of the Nordic Council of Ministers.

In a conversation with , the director of the theater, Olegs Šapošņikovs, disputed the embassy's accusations, stating at the same time that he "didn't know anything about the author of the play" and that the theater, while working on the production, "does not study the personality of the author".

"For us, it was a Ukrainian playwright who wrote about the war," said Šapošņikovs.

The Ukrainian embassy had raised no objections to the performance until hours before the premiere, he said. "Before the premiere, I informed the Ministry of Culture, we clearly stated our position. This play, in our opinion, does not convey any propagandistic ideas, and on our part there is no promotion of Kremlin propaganda," asserted Šapošņikovs. asked how it was possible to legally stage a public performance at a major theater without making contract with the author or his representatives, receiving permission and agreeing fees.

"I had two email addresses of the author to which we sent messages. We said that we were staging a play and wanted to discuss the terms. The theater did not receive any answers, and I, paradoxically, was going to contact the Ukrainian Embassy with a request to help me find the author of the play. The embassy got ahead of me... Staging a play without agreeing on a fee is not exactly good practice, but such situations do happen," said Šapošņikovs, who remained unrepentant about the choice of material.

"I believe that the embassy made an unfoundedly loud accusation. Putting the label of a Kremlin propagandist on a state theater without understanding the situation is bad practice. We ask not to insult the theater, but to understand what we wanted to do. Accusations of working for the Kremlin in no way correspond to what our theater does in general. We absolutely do not deserve such accusations and insults," he said.

The next performance is due on October 13 in Russian with Latvian subtitles, though meetings are planned to decide if it will go ahead.  

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