By Umit Bektas
MYKOLAIV, Ukraine (Reuters) - Actors in a heavily bombarded city in southern Ukraine have returned to the stage, putting on their first performance since Russia's invasion in an underground shelter converted into a tiny theatre.
A few dozen theatre-goers descended steep concrete steps into the subterranean venue on Thursday for the opening night of a show put on by the Mykolaiv Art Drama Theatre. Their usual venue, an ornate 450-seater hall, has been closed due to the six-month war that has seen Mykolaiv, a strategic southern port, repeatedly targeted by Russia forces.
"Of course, many plays have been cancelled, because some male actors went away to fight, some went abroad as temporary refugees. So, our theatre company has become smaller," said actress Violeta Mamykina, speaking in her cramped dressing room before going on stage.
Theatre manager Artem Svystun described the performance as "art-therapy", giving local people who have stayed on in the city some brief respite from the stress of the war.
Ievhen Studzinskyi, who was in the audience for Thursday night's show, agreed.
"When I went outside, I said it plain and simple, 'it was fun'," he said. "There were tears. There was food for thought. There was a philosophy, depth. I felt really good."
(Reporting by Umit Bektas; Writing by Andrii Pryimachenko and Alex Richardson; Editing by Alison Williams)