Popular Wigan venue to showcase cabaret created in Ukraine bunkers

A performance created on the front line of war-torn Ukraine is coming to Wigan.
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Bunker Cabaret brings together music, poetry, dance and film in a powerful exploration of love versus totalitarianism, and the personal conflicts of making art in a time of war.

Hooligan Art Community’s work was disassembled overnight following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

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In May last year the company came together remotely from Germany where some of them had fled to, and from the bunkers in Kyiv where some sought safety to create bold new performances in extraordinary circumstances.

Danylo Shramenko and Semyon Kyslyi in Bunker CabaretDanylo Shramenko and Semyon Kyslyi in Bunker Cabaret
Danylo Shramenko and Semyon Kyslyi in Bunker Cabaret

Following early shows in London, Redruth, Eastleigh and Berlin last year, the company have resumed touring the show in 2023.

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By turns ironic, raw, funny and devastating, the performance starkly reveals the performers’ individual experiences of the war while communicating a shared humanity, creating beautiful moments of connection between artists and audiences.

Two months after the invasion began, the situation in Ukraine allowed women from the company to travel to a residency in Germany, while two male members of the company remained in Ukraine, restricted by law from leaving the country.

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In spite of this, the male actors worked together in a bomb-shelter in Kyiv, developing new scenes which would become the inspiration for Bunker Cabaret.

The artists arrived in Wigan last week ahead of their two-night performance on March 23 and 24 at The Old Courts.

Taking place in the venue’s Victorian Courtroom, audience members can expect to see a unique and powerful theatre event combining music, poetry, dance and film.

Members of the public have also been invited to lend rugs and lamps for use in the show.

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Old Courts artistic director Jonathan Davenport said: “As an arts organisation striving to work with dynamic artists on fascinating and important projects, we feel like we struck gold recently.

"We were approached by representatives of Hooligan Arts Community from Ukraine who were trying to plan a tour in the UK in the face of well documented adversity.

"We immediately jumped at the chance to welcome international artists to Wigan and to show them the hospitality that our town is well known for.

"The fact that this tour is even happening is testament to both the passion and determination of the artists and the importance of expression.”

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Since the full-scale Russian invasion, millions of Ukrainian citizens have been displaced, with an estimated 60 families moving to the Wigan borough.

Jenna Omeltschenko, director of the Down to Earth project at The Old Courts said: “Wigan and the North West region have a long history of welcoming Ukrainian people into our communities, including my own Grandfather many years ago.

"It is deeply personal and professional privilege to open the doors of The Old Courts to these incredible artists from Kyiv with their show Bunker Cabaret which is a reminder of the power of art and its ability to make sense of the world.”

Hooligan Art Community co-founder and performer Danylo Shramenko said: “When we were reunited in the UK, we felt a responsibility to be a voice for Ukrainians, and for artists who cannot leave the country. Ukraine has a remarkable independent cultural scene, which we want to represent in the UK. Making new work together is a lifeline for us.

"This is the beginning of a new chapter for our company and our lives.”