So far 2016 has not been kind to me. After the leaps and bounds of last year’s progress and the promise of a bright future laid out before me, the stars decided that I needed to slow it down a bit and sent down a whooping cough to bind me to my bed. Thankfully all is not lost, as your intrepid blogger of Eastern European theatre has some reviews up his sleeves.

I have had the privilege recently of being aquatinted with a Bulgarian-Welsh artistic director by the name of Nikolai Ribnikov who runs a comedy theatre company called Velvet Trumpet. He suggested that I get in contact with the Bulgarian Embassy to get an idea of the work that young Bulgarians are creating, and so I did. The Bulgarian Cultural Institute, which is situated behind the embassy, a street away from the Royal Albert Hall, provides an artistic output for Bulgarians, both nationals and expats based in London, and works as a cultural bridge between our countries. I have recently found that there are many such institutes across the city and I would highly suggest looking into them if you would like to see artistic events from other cultures around London.

A theatre company from Sofia, Bulgaria named Replica Theatre Company performed a play intriguingly titled ‘A Couple Of Poor Polish-Speaking Romanians’  in the Sofia Gallery, the main gallery area of the Institute. The play was the first theatre piece written by a young Polish writer and journalist named Dorota Masłowska over decade ago and is a political comment on Polish stereotypes and perceptions in the post-communist state she grew up in. An English-translation of the play was performed at the Soho theatre in 2008 to mixed reviews, although I think this may have been due to poor translation and a lack of relevance for the British audience at the time. The story follows two supposed Polish-speaking Romanians who take a Polish driver hostage; and much like the plays at Borštnikovo Festival, it was performed in a language, here Bulgarian, with English subtitles  on a screen behind it. As the play continues, it becomes clear that things aren’t what they seem as it turns out that both of the characters are Polish, with Parcha (male) being a delusional actor who is famous for playing a character in a soap and Dzina (female), a single mother with a drug problem who is disturbingly vague about the whereabouts of her child. Other characters drop in and out of the action and the narrative is progressed by a narrator who explains what is happening and what will happen as the play progresses.

All in all I very much enjoyed the production, and it raised a lot of questions about stereotypes, which having talked to some Bulgarians since, mirror aspects of society in post-communist Bulgaria, as well as questioning the audience about their understanding of loss and how one is to deal with it. As the play came to an end, the narrator broke character to question the actors as themselves, and the loss they have suffered in their lives that gave them the energy to perform the production. It was quite hard to watch, but it brought to light what the reasoning was for the performance and it was received very well by the audience. I would be interested in seeing how it looks in Polish and if there were any differences thematically but Replica’s performance was both entertaining and insightful.

On a final note, the Bulgarian Cultural Institute was more than welcoming and were very accommodating to my questions. So I would suggest getting in contact if you would like to find out about their rich cultural heritage and events happening in London. As for me, I am heading to Eastern Hungary in two weeks time if I survive this ailment. Let us hope that I can start my year from there and have plenty of adventures in theatre to write about!