Former Oxford Playhouse director LOUISE CHANTAL meets Ukraine’s Bunker Cabaret who have brought to the city a powerful show which began life in a Kyiv bomb-shelter

LIKE so many of us, I have watched the atrocities in Ukraine over the past 16 months with horror and a feeling of utter uselessness.

So when an old theatre colleague made a national call out for venues and producers to host a company from Ukraine, I decided to swap my sense of futility for a return to old-fashioned producing, and bring the company to Oxford.

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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.

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.

Kyiv-based company Hooligan Art Community have been working together since 2019, led by co-founders British director Peter Cant and Ukrainian artist Danylo Shramenko. Their unique style of theatre, dance and music was threatened overnight following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Oxford Mail: Bunker Cabaret from Kyiv, Ukraine

Peter talked about the effect of the war on the company’s work.

“Since the full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, our team have been displaced across the UK and Europe,” says Peter whose crew are performing the show at OVADA, a converted warehouse in Osney Lane, West Oxford, for the Oxford Festival of the Arts.

“We’ve been reliant on the ingenuity of local producers and theatre organisers to help bring us together and perform to new audiences.

“We’re delighted to be in Oxford as part of the Festival of the Arts, working with the festival, our host venue OVADA and the University’s Humanities Cultural Programme to be able to share our personal stories of the war.”

He goes on: “We have been welcomed and supported by so many people and organisations in the city, including the venue OVADA, a warehouse space reminiscent of the kinds of places we like to play in Kyiv.

Oxford Mail: Bunker Cabaret from Kyiv, Ukraine

“We’re an independent theatre company which has worked entirely outside of the state theatre system, creating work that advocates for freedom of expression and equality while exploring the dynamic relationship between actor and audience.”

It hasn’t been an easy journey from Kyiv to Osney. Two months after the invasion began, the situation in Ukraine allowed women from the company to travel to Germany, while two male members of the company were forced by law to remain in Ukraine.

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.

Once the company were united in real life, they presented early versions of the piece in the UK and Germany, before coming together to mark the first anniversary of the invasion with special performances at Somerset House in London, supported by the British Council.

Oxford Mail: Bunker Cabaret from Kyiv, Ukraine

Director of the Oxford Festival of the Arts, Dr Michelle Castelletti, welcomed the opportunity to present Bunker Cabaret in Oxford.

“With all the wonderful and marvellous things that we can do in an arts festival, nothing is more meaningful,” she says.

“The arts speak and allow us to speak, and it is only when we all come together strongly that our voices are heard.”

Co-founder and performer Danylo feels Bunker Cabaret is representing those Ukranian artists and performers who can not get out, saying: “We felt a responsibility to be a voice for Ukrainians, and for artists who cannot leave the country.

Oxford Mail: Bunker Cabaret

“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.”

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Bunker Cabaret won’t be the most famous show at this year’s Festival of the Arts, but it may be the most urgent... and timely.

  • Bunker Cabaret is at OVADA, Osney Lane, Oxford, until Sunday July 9.
  • Tickets are available now at For more information, see