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“Newer time Bulgarians” or how amateur enthusiasts in London interpret classical Bulgarian works on stage

We may not know how many Bulgarians there are living in London, but they must run to tens of thousands because every time the amateur comedy company “The Bulgarians” put on a show, the hall is full. It was founded by enthusiasts, Bulgarian expats, teachers from the Sunday school of Bulgarian language and arts Boyan Maga, set up in London in 2011. The motor behind the idea is Antonia Angelova, who founded the company in 2016. Since then, the company has staged several Bulgarian classic works in London, such as “Phoney civilization”, “Old time Bulgarians”, “Women’s reign”, as interpreted by the new Bulgarian expats living in the UK. There are no professional actors in the company though each member brings their own personal talent onstage – writing poetry or prose, or discovering a new profession. What they all share is their pride of their Bulgarian roots.
Nelly Yordanova
Attracted most of all by the emotions that go with the work on every new play, Nelly Yordanova decided to join the comedy company almost at the very start. They set the ball rolling with “Phoney civilization” and the idea of reminding Bulgarians in London of Bulgarian theatre and some classical works:

“When Antonia Angelova put the company together, Nina Junova became our screenwriter, and she staged the play in such a way as to even includes jokes about the lives of the Bulgarians in London, still it mostly follows the storyline of the work by Dobri Voynikov,” Nelly Yordanova explains in an interview with Radio Bulgaria. “But we are all amateurs, this is our hobby via which we are able to give expression to Bulgaria, demonstrate what we are capable of and, at the same time to have some fun. All of the money we raise from the plays we then invest in the work of the director, for renting the premises etc. We are pleased to see the hall full every time and we get many compliments and superlatives from the audience. Bulgarians keep telling us they are very proud of what we are doing. But everyone knows we are not professionals, so they don’t have such high expectations.”

After staging “Phoney civilization”, “The Bulgarians” moved to a higher level as they started work with stage director Elisaveta Dacheva who studied directing in London. Together with her, they staged “Women’s reign” by Stefan Lazarov Kostov. Each of the actors gave their idea of what the characters should be like, and the result was not late in coming. The show was once again played to a full house. The rehearsals and the shows take place at a church in North London – Trinity church. The hall seats about 200, but it is not built for a theatre stage, so the seats are not arranged amphitheatrically. “We can’t afford to rent a real theatre stage,” the company members say. During the pandemic the shows and the rehearsals were cancelled altogether, but the by the beginning of 2022 the enthusiasm was back, and most of the company members were back together again.

"Newer time Bulgarians" directed by Yavor Gigov

Their latest play is called “Newer time Bulgarians”, and it combines two novelettes by Lyuben Karavelov – “Old time Bulgarians” and “Mommy’s boy”, the screenplay is again by Nina Junova. “This time we are having Bulgarian actor Yavor Gigov coming as director. He is the only one who really knows how to make theatre of a higher order,” Nelly Yordanova says. “We are all girls in the company, but we are looking for more enthusiasts, because last time there were several people who had to do double roles. We’ve had some funny things happen – like making a mistake and then all other people on the stage reacting in such a way that no one in the audience noticed. Otherwise we take care of everything ourselves – the stage, the posters, the costumes. We are enthusiasts – to the limit! This is our hobby and we try to get the most fun out of doing it together.”

Translated and posted by Milena Daynova

Photos courtesy of "The Bulgarians", BTA, Facebook / Nelly Yordanova

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