To the Magic Curtain in Targovishte  
- Chronicle of a rewarding trip to Bulgaria

This year, the State Theatre celebrated the 23rd edition of the annual festival The Magic Curtain, which was definitely worth a visit in May ... (Memories by Dieter Topp)

You have to do some travelling to get to Targovishte in Bulgaria. Located around 340 kilometres north-east of the Bulgarian capital Sofia, this town of just over 32,000 inhabitants is steeped in history with a Copper Stone Age, Thracian, Roman and Byzantine past. Remains of a settlement from the First and Second Bulgarian Empire have been found. Ottoman rule ended in 1878 and the town was renamed Targovishte in 1934.

This year, the State Theatre celebrated the 23rd edition of the annual festival The Magic Curtain, which was definitely worth a visit. For the second time, theatre director Vladimir Petkov had entrusted his young director Denislav Yanev with the organisation and direction of the "Festival for Young People".

Amalia Kondoyanni from Greece and Jan Janek Jirku from the Czech Republic accepted his invitation and, together with Ina Bojidarova (Bulgaria), formed this year's jury for the competition for the best performances. (It was thanks to last year's Romanian-Bulgarian dramaturge Aglica Oltean that the chronicler was able to take a look behind the "Magic Curtain" this year).

The opening was almost like a folk festival with the Mayor, an Orthodox priest, orchestra, tambour girl parade, theatre groups from near and far and an enthusiastic audience, a large colourful crowd from young to old, on the sunlit forecourt of the State Theatre.

Denislav Yanev had called, theatres and puppetry groups from Lovech, Yambol, Sliven, Veliko Tarnovo, Stara Zagora, Burgas, Plovdiv and Sofia had answered his call from Bulgaria.

The theatre from Petroșani in Romania provided plenty of snow in the audience. The internationally renowned author Elise Wilk, whose play "The Green Cat" was performed, also came from this neighbouring country, much to the delight of the audience and especially the young actors from Targovishte:

The story of six teenagers and a Saturday night at a disco on the outskirts of a provincial town changed their lives forever, the story of a murder on various levels in the form of interviews with those involved in the case.
"It's about adolescence, an age when the fragility of emotional balance can easily lead to tragedy. It's about love, about friendship, but above all about the power of imagination to help us escape the grey world we live in." (

Also worthy of mention was TIES, a movement theatre piece with four actors from the Targovishte State Theatre, excellently choreographed by Nedelya Gancheva and wonderfully interpreted in terms of movement technique. They took the first step into contemporary dance theatre. The bar was set high and we can look forward to more.

"Dunno in Sun City" by Nikolay Nosov, from the Plovdiv State Puppet Theatre: the performance was full of youngsters. They loudly expressed their delight at the play.

Puppet's Lab, Sofia: I, Sisyphus ... inspired by the work "The Myth of Sisyphus" by Albert Camus, embarked on a journey of man's eternal return to himself, trying to escape but always going on, a spiral of life, an eternal repetition. And this constant activity made us meditate not on the meaning but on the meaninglessness of human life, wondering whether it was really true ...
Nevertheless, this show is an oldie but goldie, touring from festival to festival since 2013, often nominated and deservedly often honoured. People were perhaps looking forward to something new and up-to-date, but it won't be easy to replace this show, so it will be interesting to see ...

Oscar Wilde's Star Child by the Lovech Theatre was impressive in its portrayal of the protagonist, as well as its set and lighting.

The state puppet theatre from Stara Zagora, known far beyond the borders of Bulgaria, made my heart beat faster with Hand to God:

In the recreation room of a church in Cypress, Texas, Margery and her students put on a puppet show to strengthen faith and renounce Satan, as only an American, southern church can. But when the young members of the Christian puppet theatre put these teachings into practice, the puppet of a pious young man takes over the direction.
In hilariously black fashion, a foul-mouthed sock puppet soon taught that instincts can make a person give in to his darkest desires. And it worked. Photo: State Puppet Theatre Stara Zagora

Judging by the roar of the audience, Hand to God succeeded in hiding its larger concerns under the guise of dirty puppetry. With this play, a "true tour de force" (New York Times), Robert Askin has written a piece of acclaimed off-Broadway performance. Foul, nasty, dirty and wonderful! Thank you!

And then the absolute winner of the festival and the jury:

CIPOLLINO (after Rodari), the struggle of the underclass against the powerful, good against evil and the importance of friendship in the face of great difficulties, by Atelier 313, Sofia, surprised with a fast-paced production in a stage set of pure trash on the theme of revolution, the last Mohicans of the barricades, or how do I become a hero? ... or maybe not like that after all!
A source of courage for young and old. Powerful theatre was offered here, not only for young people, with a playful, educational character, without being instructive.

The trip to Targovishte was rewarding, the participants, the plays mentioned, the performers, the puppeteers and the theatres remain vivid memories for me to this day. Unfortunately, not everything from this festival could be mentioned here.