There’s an absolute evil in contemporary art, in theatre in particular, that nips the creative process in the bud – it’s called ‘political correctness’.

Nicolai Khalezin
Nicolai Khalezin
Co-artistic Director of Belarus Free Theatre, playwright, director, journalist

I am not against political correctness in everyday life. On the contrary, I totally support it as a tool that restrains human madness. If it weren’t for PC, the world would mostly consist of ‘niggers’, ‘khokhols’, ‘kikes’, ‘faggots’ and ‘chinks’. Political correctness was born not as a whim of a certain group, but as an effective instrument of defence. The instrument is necessary and absolutely justified in our everyday life, but it brings nothing but destruction in art.

The advantage of artists in the post-Soviet region is that political correctness hasn’t grown in their mind to the critical size of political correctness typical of artists in Western Europe, North America, Canada or Australia. The disadvantage is their refusal to consider it as an element of creative strategies, both personal and institutionalised. The disadvantage of western artists is that they constantly mix up two realities – an everyday one and a creative one. If an actor plays easily a scene of violence against a representative of their race or social group, the change of a partner to a representative of another group can stop the process and provoke a long discussion on social consequences of the scene.

It happens with surprising regularity at different levels. Let’s recall an exhibition in London titled Exhibit B that was closed by the police two years ago. The exhibition featured black people in various contexts: torture, slavery, psychological pressure. It was closed as racist, though the black actors who participated in the event assured London authorities that the exhibition was anti-racist. The key factor in the decision to ban the exhibition was that its author Brett Bailey was white. Arguments that Brett was raised in South Africa in the apartheid era and was exploring racism for many years didn’t help.

I always tell foreign actors at the first rehearsal that they must leave their political correctness outside the rehearsal room. On the one hand, it’s pragmatic – we don’t waste our time on idle arguments; on the other hand, it removes a psychological barrier – actors should treat one another as partners and not think about skin colour or sexual orientation of their colleague. Moreover, ‘creative political correctness’ always suggests so hated by many ‘patronizing’, the word that doesn’t exist in Russian.

If we look closer at classic works in literature, theatre or cinematography, we’ll see that most authors should be tried or at least their works should be banned by today’s standards of political correctness. Shakespeare would top the list, because it’s in his play that a black man strangles a sensitive tender girl.

Photo: The Guardian

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