special report

Varna Theatre Festival

As Edinburgh prepares for its month-long cultural celebrations, at the other end of Europe, another festival city is also building an impressive reputation. Words- Robin Hodge

Throughout the summer, on the Black Sea coast of Bulgaria, the ancient City of Varna plays host to a series of festivals, each dedicated 'to a different art form. The season starts in early June vnth a Theatre Festival running for ten days This is followed through July, August and September With separate l_)T()(_l.'<ill‘lll(?S dedicated to music, ballet, folk, leZ and Cinema. Each operates independently, With its own director and structure, and each sets out to combine the best Of Bulgarian work With a selection of |ll\.’ll(“ii interiiatir‘inal performances and t.‘'l:slic-ps

The range of Bulgarian work to ill()t)S(‘ from each year is astonishing. In a country ”)i only eight million pe'iole, there are over 50 theatre companies, nineteer‘i puppet theatres, six opera companies and nine philliarnioiiit orchestras. All were extensively funded during the Communist era, when the arts received special treatment in an itteiiipt by the authorities to deflect criticism over the lack of political ilCOdOlT‘ Now, state finances are contracting rapidly as OCODOmIC

realities hit i‘xi‘llit‘ Immense problems .‘illttilil'yliifif‘é, which are and if revenue

Put :1 :‘xoultl be wrong to conclude retreat,

lace all arts

stititirglntz to seek

‘>' i ‘."l‘v’(.‘

that tht arts are in With

Hat out of hell: The Master And Margarita




I. '2' What a piece of work is a woman: the cross-dressing Hamlet

everyone dashing headlong for the market and replacing culture With greed. A few days in Varna is sufficient to be convinced that the level of commitment matches the abundance of creative talent.

This year’s Theatre Festival saw an impressive range of innovative Bulgarian productions, including a cross-dressing Hamlet and a radical updating of Bulgakov's novel The Master And Margarita. Alongside these productions were collaborative contemporary dance protects invoIVing local dancers and choreographers working with companies from Germany and Latwa. The international programme boasted work from neighbouring Balkan countries and beyond. Mark Murphy’s V—TOL dance company represented Britain With a new production . . And Nothing But The Truth, which breaks new ground, mixmg strands of film, drama, dance and murder mystery.

While the scale IS still small With only a few performances each day, Varna is perhaps ahead of Edinburgh in its workshop programme and its ernphaSis on developing new talent. In recognition of the strength of new writing in Bulgaria, London's Royal COurt Theatre ran a week-long workshop programme for young pIayv-irights The sessions were run by Elyse Dodgson of the Royal Court along With Sarah Kane, writer of Blasted, whose new play Crave has its world premiere at the Traverse this August.

The director of the Varna theatre festival is Nikolay Iordanov, who Visited Edinburgh last August for the British Council showcase season. He recognises that the Edinburgh Festival grew from a standing start in 1947, into what is now the largest arts festival in the world.

Varna, iust celebrating its fifth birthday, is tiny by comparison, but there is a prospect that a fringe could grow up around the main events over the years to come. Fringe companies despairing of the ever-rising costs of coming to Edinburgh could perhaps think of paying a visit to the Black Sea. The weather is guaranteed to be infinitely better.

Varna Theatre Festival is supported by the British Council, 7 Tulovo Street, Sofia, Bulgaria 00 359 2 946 0098. Crave is at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, Tue 11 Aug-Sat 5 Sep.



Drama is listed by city, then alphabetically by venue. Tourin shows are listed at the end oft e drama section. Dance is listed after drama for each city. Touring shows are listed at the end of the drama 8r dance section. Shows will be listed, provided that details reach our offices at least ten days before publication. Drama & dance listings compiled by Peter Ross.


Access: P = Parking Facilities. PPA = Parking to be Prc—Arrangcd. l. 2 level Access. R = Rainpcd Acccss. ST = Steps to negotiate.

Facilities: WC = Adapth Toilctts). \VS = Wheelchair Spaces. AS = Adjacent Seats. H = Induction Loop Systcm. lR = Infra Red System. (i = Guidc Dogs

Allowcd. R = Restaurant Acccssiblc. C = Catering Accessible. T = Adapted Telephone.

Help: .A 2 Assistance Available. AA = Advise Venue in Advance.


Tickets for major venues in Glasgow are available from the Ticket Ccntrc. Candlcriggs. Mon-Sat 10.30am

until 6.30pm in person or until ‘in1) by phone on (ll-ll 2S7 55l l. Sunday opening is noon -5pin. Any Ticket Link box office can scll tickets for other


Tl" indicates vcnucs wlicrc Theatre Tokens can be exchanged for

tickets. Tokens can be bought from Tickct (critic. Candlcriggs.

Glasgow. ()Hl 287 5910‘. most branches of \\'.ll. Smith. John Menzies and James Thin Booksellers: or by credit card from Tokenlinc. ()l7l 240 8800.



2 Sauchichall Street. 287 55l 1. [Access: P. PPA. l.. ST. R. Facilities: WC. WS. H. G. C]

Michael Barrymore Hi It) Jul. 7.30pm. 1: I550 & i l 7.50. The Truman Capote of light entertainment prepares to put a swing in the step and a smile in the heart ol' the pcoplc of. (ilasgow.

QUEEN'S PARK RECREATION GROUND Langsidc. Booking: ()42l 565 557. ()42l 565 558.0-12l 505 55‘).

The Moscow State Circus L'niil

Sun l2 Jul. Thu ck l‘ri. 5pm & Spin.

Sat ck Sun. 2pm iv 5pm. iii-£20 (Lo-«L‘l5l. Scc Kids listings. page 75 and Touring.


Hope Street. 332 9000. Tl‘. [Access2 PPA. ST. R. Facilities: WC. \‘l’S. H. G. C‘. Help: AA]

The Singing Kettle - World Tour

Untii Sun l2 Jul; Thu—Sat Ilain & 2pm; Sun lpm ac 4pm. See Kids listings. page 75 and Touring.

listings THEATRE

Hit list

The best stage shows this fortnight

The Moscow State Circus The world- famous, animal-free, traditional Russian circus troupe returns to Scotland, headed up by Mik and Mak, 'the world's greatest clowns'. Glasgow: Queen ’5 Park. Edinburgh: Leith Links (Aug). Whisky Galore Tourist-friendly cheer in Mull Theatre's light-hearted adaptation of Compton Mackenzie‘s 1947 classic. It's wartime, and the water of life is drying up in the Hebrides ~- until a cargo ship laden with the stuff goes aground near the island and the whole thing takes place in a radio studio. See review, page 56 Edinburgh: Royal Lyceum Theatre.

Michael Barrymore A rare chance to see Mr Entertainment in person. What more can we say? Glasgow Royal Concert Hall,


()3 Trongatc. 552 4267. TI". [Accessz PPA. ST. R. 1.. Facilities: WC‘. WS. H. C. Help: AA] (.‘losed Mon.

Sea Urchins Until Sat ll Jul. 7.30pm. £9 (£4). The Tron Theatre Company teams up with Dundee Rep for this production of Sharinan MacDonald's play. adapted from her radio piece of the same title. It's 19m and an clm'cn-ycar-old Scottish girl on holiday with her family on the wild Atlantic coast of Wales contemplates the perils of growing up.

Continued over page

Clowning glory: Milt and Mak star with the Moscow State Circus at Queen's Park

9—23 Jul 1998 THE LISTS?