A varied program with the best of the Bulgarian scene at the 31st Varna Summer International Theatre Festival

Celebrated actor John Malkovich is starring in a theatre and opera production that will be presented together with the Varna Summer Music Festival at the end of July.

Between 1 and 10 June Varna will once again become a theatre capital. Twenty-five productions from Bulgaria and abroad will be presented on various stages in the city as part of the 31st edition of the Varna Summer International Theatre Festival. This year’s Bulgarian selection highlights from the current theatre season eight performances that demonstrate artistic quality and engage with relevant issues.

It was the Varna Summer Theatre Festival that presented in Bulgaria many times the Slovenian director Jernej Lorenci, who nowadays is among the names on European theatre. At the invitation of the National Theatre he staged in Sofia the original performance Orpheus and the theatre critics named it the production of the year. The multi-award winning performance will be presented in Varna as part of the festival’s Bulgarian selection. It also includes the musical-theatre production Performance and a Half directed by Stoyan Radev and based on texts by all fourteen actresses from the Bulgarian Army Theatre ensemble. The Varna host theatre takes part with its new performance based on Ibsen’s John Gabriel Borkman directed by Plamen Markov. Actor-director Ivaylo Christov is also featured with his production Honour (Theatre 199) by the famous Australian author Joanna Murray-Smith.

"Orpheus" conceived and directed by Jernej Lorenci. Photo: Stefan N. Shterev

“Orpheus” conceived and directed by Jernej Lorenci. Photo: Stefan N. Shterev

Some of the leading figures of contemporary Bulgarian theatre are selected with productions that bring to the surface issues of concern to every modern person – from the environmental crisis to the struggle between the sexes and social and personal tolerance towards others. Stayko Murdzhev is featured with The Taming of the Shrew based on the spectacular Shakespearean comedy and Fat Pig based on the provocative play by contemporary American playwright Neil LaBute. Javor Gardev is present in the selection with his latest production based on the biting and witty text You Shouldn’t Have Said So by the French Moliere Prize-nominated author Salomé Lelouch, starring the inimitable Zakhari Baharov and Teodora Dukhovnikova. Acclaimed actors Elena Telbis and Boyko Krastanov take on the role of a young couple facing the dilemmas of increasingly complex modern life in Lungs by British playwright Duncan Macmillan, directed by Mariy Rosen.

Together with Art Office Foundation the festival resumes its Showcase programme featuring Bulgarian performances translated into English. It is aimed at specially invited international professionals in order to promote Bulgarian theatre abroad. This year, the professional guests will be not only programmers  from different countries, but also twenty young theatre critics who will participate in a workshop on theatre criticism, organized in cooperation with the International Association of Theatre Critics. Among the highlights of the Showcase programme is Silk by Plovdiv Theatre directed by Diana Dobreva – the first Bulgarian production included in the official selection of the World Theatre Olympiad, which will take place in Hungary in 2023.

"Silk" Photo: Georgi Vachev

“Silk” Photo: Georgi Vachev

During the renovation of the second stage of Varna Drama Theatre, the festival moves part of its international programme in the open air. This year, it is presenting spectacular street performances from the Czech Republic. From NT Live, showcasing the best of British theatre on screen, we will be able to see Emilia Clarke’s (Game of Thrones) West End theatre debut in a new version of The Seagull, directed by Jamie Lloyd. World-renowned multi-disciplinary artist Rabih Mroué (Lebanon/Germany) presents the documentary theatre production Riding on a Cloud. Here he invites his brother Yasser, who reveals his real trauma. After being wounded in the Lebanese civil war, Yasser lost his ability to distinguish fiction from reality. Riding on a Cloud engages in a compelling meditation on the fragile process of creating a personal biography – a complex web between memory, fiction and political reality.

"Propan Punk Show" by MansterVille & Blackout Paradox - Czech Republic

“Propan Punk Show” by MansterVille & Blackout Paradox – Czech Republic

Together with the Varna Summer Music Festival we keep on collaborating on the Intermezzo programme. This year it includes the concert Jazz and Poetry, the Spanish flamenco performance Luxuria  with which we are closing on June 10, to return again on July 23 with the musical and theatre production The Infernal Comedy starring John Malkovich. He will appear on stage alongside celebrated sopranos Chen Reiss and Susanne Langbein and the Wiener Akademie Orchestra. The show is written and directed by Michael Sturminger and tells the documentary story of Austrian serial killer of women Jack Unterweger. John Malkovich takes on the role of the villain with talent and criminal intent as two soprano singers soar their voices in arias by Haydn, Mozart, Gluck and Vivaldi and other classical composers and portray the women in his life.


And that’s just part of the programme for Bulgaria’s biggest international theatre event.


Tickets are now available at the Varna Festival and Congress Centre box office and online at fccvarna.bg, and for individual events at eventim.bg. From 15 May you will also be able to visit the ticket offices of the TMPC & Drama Theatre – Varna.


Follow the programme on viafest.org and on our Facebook profile https://www.facebook.com/varnasummerfestival.


The Varna Summer International Theatre Festival 2023 is organized by the Via Fest Foundation with the financial support of the Ministry of Culture, the Municipality of Varna through the Culture Fund, the National Culture Fund and the First Investment Bank. Partners of the festival are Art Office Foundation and Homo Ludens Foundation. The festival is hosted by TMPC – Varna / Stoyan Bachvarov Theatre, State Puppet Theatre – Varna, Festival and Congress Centre – Varna, Boris Georgiev City Art Gallery, Rebunkers Cultural Centre and the Archaeological Museum.

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