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Uzbekistan: Cutting-Edge Theater Surviving in Tashkent

Mark Weil’s Ilkhom Theater continues to stage controversial works more than six years after his brutal murder in Tashkent. (Photo: Ilkhom Theater)

Sex and drugs are not often publicly discussed in Uzbekistan, where the state casts itself as a guardian of traditional values. But even in such a tightly controlled environment, one can occasionally come across an oasis of free expression.

One such oasis is the Ilkhom Theater of Mark Weil, a Tashkent stage with a long tradition of producing alternative works. On a recent evening, an audience was riveted by a show – written by Russian playwright Yuriy Klavdiyev and titled Rain Behind the Wall – exploring the grittier side of urban life. It is a grim story about sexual abuse of males and females in a family wracked by alcoholism and also featuring drug addiction. And if those themes were not heavy enough, the work also touches on the topics of police brutality, corruption, economic hardship, and political disenchantment. The action is set in Russia – but the setting is familiar to audiences anywhere in the former Soviet Union.

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Joanna Lillis is a freelance writer who specializes in Central Asia.

Uzbekistan: Cutting-Edge Theater Surviving in Tashkent

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