A visit to the VARNA SUMMER 2024 International Theatre Festival

exceeded my expectations. Not only the opportunity to see the work and skills of Bulgarian theatre in the form of outstanding plays in one place in one showcase, but also to get to know a diverse world from the perspective of theatre makers from this country, several times over.

A valuable experience that I would not want to miss.

(by Dieter Topp)




THE HAGUE, a satire by Ukrainian playwright Sasha Denisova, in which Putin and his allies are brought before a war crimes tribunal, has been staged in Poland, the USA and Bulgaria. 

Photo: Boryana Pandova

The play tells the story of an orphaned teenager from Mariupol who imagines that the Russian leadership will be held accountable for its war of annihilation in Ukraine. In the version by internationally renown Galin Stoev at the Bulgarian National Theatre, the role of Putin was played brilliantly and viciously by a woman (Radena Valkanova). …

Just as Charly Chaplin mocked Hitler in The Great Dictator, Denisova says: ‘Putin must be laughed at mercilessly’. Now, as Vladimir Putin continues his campaign of terror in Ukraine, Chaplin's speech continues to be a call against tyranny and in defence of democracy: „Dictators free themselves, but they enslave the people,“ Chaplin declared.

We are all called upon to stand up against dictators: Ukraine is not only next door, dictators are voracious - we learned this from a deeply impressive Bulgarian theatre experience.



National Theatre - Ruse


(Photo: PPS)

Director Boian Ivanov managed with skill and socio-psychological empathy to do justice to the author, Mark Haddon, not to stage a play about autism, but "to create a dignified portrayal of an outsider as a literary figure and to arouse compassion and understanding for his individuality".  Without being mechanically pathetic, Ivanov created empathy for the outsider in the audience. Lead actor Kaloyan Zhelev received the ‘Icarus 2024’ award for his debut and performance, and there was a standing ovation for the entire show.




“This is a story about the inherent need to belong to a certain place, community or home, about the need to make sense to yourself and to your family. “Tribes” is a play that goes beyond its time. Its text touches you, makes you laugh, scares you, makes you bitter, repulses, deepens reflection, shakes and purifies – this is a text that makes you hurt.” Dir. Zafir Radjab

Home should be a place that offers security. Nina Raine's ‘Tribes’ explored the complicated relationship between disability, home and culture.

(Photo: Boris Urumov)

The play showed how the cultural understanding and treatment of disability shapes and regulates the disabled character's physical experiences within their own four walls. It explored how the prevailing ideas of body, hierarchy and value create a sense of alienation and lack of belonging. 

The performance by the Bulgarian Army Theatre, which was staged almost like a film, was convincing in every respect: the young director Radjab's skill, very good actors in a perfectly suitable stage setting.



Margarita Mladenova, together with director Ivan Dobchev, are the founders of Sfumato Theatre Laboratory.

HAPPY DAYS by Samuel Beckett played by the actress Svetlana Yancheva with remarkable power and attention to detail. Margarita Mladenova had created an ascetic performance where the drama of the human amazed at whatever it is that “helps us live our wounds” in spite of everything is played in front of God’s eye. (Photo: Yana Lozeva)



There had been the first Bulgarian staging of American playwright Doug Wright’s semi-documentation I A MY OWN WIFE, which brought him a number of awards, including the prestigious “Pulitzer” and “European Tolerance Award”.


Talented debutant Dimítar Ángelov captivated with the various roles of the life of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf, a German transvestite who was involved in the great European dramas of the 20th century. Unlike many of her contemporaries, von Mahlsdorf survived the Nazi regime and its replacement in the GDR, the Soviet-dominated communist dictatorship, spent her life in times of democracy as an eccentric antiques dealer in East Berlin and finally emigrated to Sweden.

(Photo: Stephan Zdraveski)

The young director Nadia Pancheva had faithfully and carefully retold Doug Wright's story, which is peppered with twists, revelations and humour, and takes us back to Charlotte's dramatic faith, which was shaped by her desire to stand up for her right to personal freedom.

Angelov wowed the audience and made an important contribution to sexual diversity in Bulgaria. He was nominated for the 2024 Icarus Award for Best Debut.
After the show he was presented with a very special gift in the form of a personal note from author Doug Wright, New York.


Last not least SALINE NEBULA by Stanislav Genadiev and Violeta Vitanova, a physical performance that took place in a complex sound and visual environment creating an image of the emergence and disappearance of a life form.

 (Photo: Martin Atanasov)

Dancer Marion Darova presented impressively transformation of the abstract into the concrete, of the invisible into the visible. It seemed as if an alien emerged before the audience and slowly took solid form out of mist and haze, to finally fade away on the altar of visibility to the human eye in this local atmosphere.

More information viafest.org