Earlier this year in the Polish theatre journal Didaskalia (169/170, 2022), a pair of Ukrainian and Polish critics Iryna Czużynowa and Marta Kacwin-Duman posed a powerful question:

Have you ever wondered why Ukrainian theater culture is so little known in the world? Why don’t you come across the names of Ukrainian playwrights on the stages of world theaters? Who can name even ten outstanding Ukrainian directors or actors? Where are the national geniuses of Ukraine? After all, we are talking about a nation with a thousand-year history and culture. (…) In fact, this is one of the most convincing manifestations of the centuries-long Russia’s “war without bombs.”

On Sunday 4th of December at 5 pm in London’s Camden People’s Theatre, you will have the opportunity to encounter bilingual readings of two documentary plays written by leading Ukrainian playwrights Anastasiia Kosodii and Kateryna Penkova and presented onstage for the first time. The readings will be followed by an in-person discussion with the playwrights together with Ukrainian theatre specialist Molly Flynn, who curates the project.

In the eight years between the start of Russia’s war in eastern Ukraine in 2014 and the full-scale invasion in 2022, Ukraine witnessed an impressive boom in socially engaged theatre and political playwriting. These recent documentary plays by Anastasiia Kosodii and Kateryna Penkova exemplify the remarkable culture of defiance and resistance in Ukrainian political playwriting and demonstrate how theatre-makers are using their craft to speak out against the atrocities of Russia’s ongoing war. Narrating the War by Anastasiia Kosodii (Kyiv/Zaporizhzhia/Berlin) explores her experience of displacement, and her attempts to ‘narrate the war’ to people outside of Ukraine. A Marathon of Russian Roulette by Kateryna Penkova (Kyiv/Donetsk/Warsaw) is composed from a verbatim interview with a woman who survived Mariupol. Molly Flynn explains:

These two texts speak to the brutality of Russia’s war against Ukraine with devastating clarity and disarming honesty. To me, it’s important we do everything possible to share these truths with international audiences and create public spaces in which to bear witness to the stories of Ukrainian writers and, in particular, to those of the women whose lives continue to be upended by the atrocities of Russia’s ongoing attack on Ukrainian sovereignty.

Helena Kernan translated both texts into English. Flynn clarifies that

the Kosodii text was translated from Ukrainian. Penkova’s text was translated from Russian because it’s a verbatim monologue composed of excerpts from an interview with a woman who survived Mariupol and gave the interview in Russian.

On Sunday, Penkova and Flynn will be reading Russian Roulette together in a mix of English and Ukrainian as Penkova has now translated parts of the text from Russian into Ukrainian as well.

All proceeds from ticket sales go towards Ukrainian Institute London’s support to displaced Ukrainians.

Book tickets: here.

The texts were commissioned by Birkbeck’s Institute for Gender and Sexuality and produced by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre and Ukrainian Institute London with support from OSUN’s Experimental Collaborative Humanities Network. The event is co-organized by Birkbeck Centre for Contemporary Theatre, Ukrainian Institute London and Camden People’s Theatre.


Featured art piece is by Ola Rondiak. Received from the Ukrainian Ukrainian Institute London.



This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.

This post was written by The Theatre Times.

The views expressed here belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect our views and opinions.