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Two actors travel around the world with the story of Yavorov

12 November 2014 / 20:11:09  GRReporter
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Anastasia Balezdrova

The play "Nirvana" of theatre workshop "Sfumato" visited the Bulgarian community in Athens at the invitation of the Embassy of Bulgaria in Greece. The occasion was the celebration of the Day of National Revival Leaders and the commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the death of Bulgarian poet Peyo Yavorov.

The play is written by Konstantin Iliev and directed by Professor Ivan Dobchev; the music is composed by Assen Avramov.

Hours before the performance at Argo Theatre in Athens GRReporter is acquainting its readers with the actors who play the roles of Lora and Yavorov, Irmena Chichikova and Hristo Bonin, who talked with Maria S. Topalova and Anastasia Balezdrova.

The couple Lora Karavelova - Peyo Yavorov

Irmena Chichikova: At that time, they were one of the most curious and the most interesting couples. Both were extremely knowledgeable. Lora was one of the most advanced women at that time. Accordingly, this had provoked an internal clash between two strong natures.

The most important thing while I was working on the image of Lora was that the author of the play gave me her letters to read, because they show her nature. She was quite morose. It was interesting at that time that, both before and after this incident, society split in two: against Yavorov - for Yavorov, supporters of the theory that Lora committed suicide and those who believed he had killed her. For them, Lora was an open, bright, travelling person who would never have committed suicide.

But when you read her letters you see that the opposite is true. Lora had plunged into their relationship and into its development as she had imagined it. She had expected that when she became Yavorov’s wife she would become his muse as well. For me, one of the biggest blows for her was the fact that this did not happen. While Yavorov was with her, he wrote nothing, not to speak of something dedicated to her. This is strange, because I think he greatly needed that woman who was standing in his way at the same time.

Lora wanted too much from him. Yavorov wanted to be remembered for his heroism, not only for his poetry, whereas she wanted him to be constantly with her, she followed him and she was very jealous and highly obsessive.

At the same time, she was a very desired and sought after woman, although she might have been a burden for Yavorov at some point.

Not surprisingly, the main characters in "Nirvana" are called "man" and "woman." Time is the context. Lora and Yavorov are the inspirers of this play, but what happens between them can happen to any couple any time - today, 100 years ago ... The basic relationships, the quarrels and talks at cross purposes are so classic, archetypal and universal that people recognize themselves in them.

Hristo Bonin: During the rehearsals, we had concentrated on the things that happened between these two persons. The purpose of Ivan Dobchev was for them to really happen. That is not only to be transformed into Lora and Yavorov but also to show that a man and a woman come together and the relationship between them is true. And to make it clear, at the very end of the play, that it is about Lora and Yavorov. The basis is the "man and woman", which is why Konstantin Iliev has named the characters in this way.


Hristo Bonin: This is the title of a poem by Yavorov. In the play, at some point, Lora falls into a state in which she says that this text makes her feel some fear and anxiety. Through the words of this poem she explains why and how to get to this nirvana.

Irmena Chichikova: The poem is about bliss. It is a bit metaphysical. I think that the night is just the same. If you look at it from a different perspective, it seems almost surreal. Although those are very specific things, very concrete actions, the relationships between Lora and Yavorov deal with metaphysical things and they are not just ordinary relationships between a man and a woman. For me it is very important that despite all their doubts and requirements, Lora highly respected him as a poet and admired him. The main thing that attracted her to him was that he was a very great poet, the highest man in spiritual terms at that time.

The performance through the eyes of the Bulgarian Diaspora

Hristo Bonin: In Bulgaria, the play is regarded as "another show that we're going to see." However, when we perform the play somewhere abroad, we see in people's eyes nostalgia that takes them back to what is Bulgarian, to the memory of Bulgaria.

It is probably the part of history that they do not remember or do not know because there are a lot of young people in the audience who live abroad, not studying Bulgarian history as it is taught in Bulgaria.

The difference is that from a nostalgic point of view the Bulgarians abroad take the play from the heart and soul.

Irmena Chichikova: I have noticed that where we have performed, outside Bulgaria, there are not many visiting performances. Therefore, the appearance of such a play is always considered as a holiday. After the performance we meet with people, speak with them, they express their emotions and feelings. This is very nice. In Bulgaria, it is just a performance whereas outside it is something special.

The play around the world

Hristo Bonin: We were first in Canada, and then in Vienna, they invited us to Brussels afterwards and to London. There will be a performance at Poznan University in Poland that has a Department of Bulgarian language. The Bulgarian community in Cyprus has invited us as well but due to problems, the performance has been postponed.

Last year "Sfumato" theatre organized a massive campaign addressed to all Bulgarian cultural institutes and embassies. The performance in Athens is actually a result of it. We proposed three titles of productions that are smaller and mobile, and can be in favour of events such as national holidays, including 3 March and the Day of National Revival Leaders. In addition to "Nirvana" we proposed the performances "Dance of Death" based on texts by August Strindberg and featuring Svetlana Yancheva, Vladimir Penev and Tsvetan Alexiev, and "Between the Holidays" by Margarita Mladenova, based on texts by Stefan Ivanov, who is a very young playwright. However, "Nirvana" seems to be the most suitable performance for the Bulgarian communities and the specific occasions. Perhaps that is why the interest in it is greater.


Hristo Bonin: The play was staged in 2009. In 2010, we participated in all theatre festivals in Bulgaria. We took part in the Varna Summer International Theatre Festival, the festival of chamber theatre forms in Vratsa, where we received awards for best actor, director and music. In Pazardzhik, where the play was staged for the first time in the local theatre, I received a theatre award for my role at the annual awards for culture. I also had a nomination for "Askeer" for best male actor but I did not win. Assen Avramov has "Askeer" for music.

Bulgarian culture today

Hristo Bonin: As the president of the Union of Artists likes to say, "Unless the budget for culture reaches 2%, it makes no sense to talk and rush to do anything because it will not happen." Another distinguished director, Yavor Gurdev, says, "The Minister of Culture is the beggar among ministers, because he begs mere pennies for something that should be funded by the state. Because a country is based on its culture, i.e. if you do not preserve and develop the culture of a nation, it dies. This is a matter of policy.

We see, however, that this process has been going on for years and I feel that this is intentional."

Irmena Chichikova: I think that entering into the vicious circle of creating performances that are easily assimilated, non-burdening, uninvolving and totally underestimating the intelligence and the capabilities of perception of culture in general is intentional too.

Accordingly, an increasing number of people want to see such things and require them in some way. So, it turns out that theatre is subject to the desire of the audience, instead of teaching people as regards taste and style, and provoking them to think, be excited, and go deep into serious topics. For me one of the worst things that I unfortunately encounter both among the audience and among close people is that everyone is so exhausted, tired and hard-bitten that they have no strength to watch performances, which will upset them, make them go deep into themselves or will defocus them. Therefore, the majority of people want to see something that will pass, leaving nothing and making them laugh.

Hristo Bonin: Even intelligent people such as doctors, teachers, prefer to go to laugh a little after the hard day they have had, to relax, rather than seeing something serious that will again bring them back to some problems and thoughts.

Irmena Chichikova: In Bulgaria, there definitely is a theatre audience. From the time I was a student to the present day, the feeling is that there has been development, theatre halls are full. However, in particular the reforms in recent years and all those changes have led to the entering into a vicious circle. You are almost obliged to offer the audience something they want from you, for the sake of securing the number of tickets, the attendance, the allocation of budgets to make theatre in the end and, eventually, something more valuable and more serious among other things.

Theatre as a job in Bulgaria
Irmena Chichikova: For me, theatre is not the place for a real income. It is just something through which I develop my spirituality and enrich myself as an actress. In no way do I perceive it as something to make money from. There is no way to make it in view of the fact that the latest performances in which I have taken part were independent projects, the funding of which was very difficult, and we staged an average of 10 performances. Inhuman efforts are put into this, the rehearsals go on for three months during which we are paid nothing.

Hristo Bonin: Only a few colleagues are engaged in theatre and earn money from it, but they are popular on television as well. That popularity actually gives them the freedom to travel and present many performances that bring them higher payment to make a living from it.

There is no reason to lie - television plays a major role in making a person, a name, popular. For the rest, being engaged in theatre and making a living from it is a lost cause. The ridiculous salaries in a theatre cannot guarantee you that you will be able to pay your electricity bill, not to speak of the cost of food, family, etc.

Many of my colleagues, including myself, are dealing with many other things in addition to that. I can speak for myself. In addition to playing in performances for a fee, I am dealing with marketing and advertising for a ridiculous salary at the "Sfumato" theatre. But my main occupation is dubbing – voice recording of films, advertisements, etc., which actually brings in my main income. Many of my colleagues neglect this job, to put it mildly, but for me it turns out to be the job that feeds the families of my colleagues, my family and me.

At the end of the conversation Irmena Chichikova and Hristo Bonin dedicated autographs to GRReporter readers.

Irmena Chichikova "I wish GRReporter the very best in all endeavours and lots of love!"

Hristo Bonin: "Love and children give meaning to everything! To GRReporter!"

Tags: TheatreNirvanaTheatre workshop SfumatoPeyo YavorovLoraIrmena ChichikovaHristo BoninAthensDay of National Revival Leaders
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