A scene from Fireflies by Andrei Filipov, dir. Katia Petrova, Theatre 199
Two lines are discernible in Katia Petrova’s directorial career, which, depending on the degree of generalisation of the characters, are intended either for adult audiences alone or are of the type of the family friendly shows. Examples of the former are: The King Nonentity by Konstantin Iliev (2010); Autobiography based on Nušić (2011); Shakespeare’s The Tempest (2013); The Collector by Radoslav Chichev (2014); The Samsas based on Kafka’s The Metamorphosis (2015); while of the latter: We, the Sparrows by Yordan Radichkov (2002); The Story of a Seagull and the Cat Who Taught Her to Fly based on Sepúlveda’s work (2008); The King-Tramp’s Tale based on Nine Fairy Tales by Čapek (2012). Recently, the director is impressing with her choices of texts, interesting to children and adolescents and focused on such serious matters as the challenges which the process of growing up, of becoming aware of one’s identity and the transformation into an adult poses to kids. In season 2016/2017, the bills of several theatres in Sofia feature her productions, reasserting the need for attention to these particular audiences: Horacio Quiroga’s Juan Darién – The Tiger Boy was premiered at Puppet Theatre, Sofia, Ronia the Robber’s Daughter based on Astrid Lindgren’s book is on Sofia Theatre’s bill and Fireflies by Andrei Filipov is her latest production at Theatre 199.
It would hardly sound far-fetched to say that Katia Petrova belongs to those Bulgarian directors, who persistently enrich Bulgaria’s theatrical repertoires with new dramatizations, based on Bulgarian or foreign texts. With a few rare exceptions such as Fireflies, a children’s play composed as early as 2013 by playwright Andrei Filipov, her specific approach to dramaturgy supposes adapting non-dramaturgical texts for the performances under her direction.
A scene from Fireflies
The story of two kids, taken on a journey around the stars by a Firefly with a strange name born in a lotus, who has landed on the Earth from the planet Tralfamadotus, is in fact a metaphor of their way to discover the beauty and magic of what is unknown and remote (the stars), getting familiarized with the universe (the planets) and closer to the metaphysical world beyond the known one (the secrets of the space). The youngest enjoy the visual spectacularity in the play of lights, popping up out of the blue around the characters, or in their hands, enveloping them, and moving in an unexpected breathtaking fairy show. The younger children, in their turn, make sense of the inconspicuously interwoven educational moments and the ever so abstract references to the subjectivity and relativity of life and the views of it, when the viewpoint changes. A central message of the text conveyed by the stage performance is the idea of the strong ‘lifelong’ children’s friendships. It is exposed as early as the exposition of the performance, which starts with the play of four kids, distributing between themselves roles, where the adventure itself begins. Thus, the four characters become heroes in their own imaginary story, where little Fillip and Maya observe celestial events and get involved in an extraordinary star journey, led by a narrating Magician and a strange talking Firefly.
Anna Valeria Gostanian, Velislava Marinkova, Angel Kalev and Lubomir Zhelev are assigned to play in the production; music by Hristo Yotsov; set design by Petia Karadjova: a team well known from Katia Petrova’s previous successful staging of The Samsas, presently on the bill of Sfumato Theatre Laboratory and awarded with or nominates for the Icarus prize of the Union of Bulgarian Actors. As a director of Julia Ognianova’s school, Katia Petrova adheres to her principles in building the structure of a performance, in its textual and visual basis and the development of the performers’ potential, i.e. studies in inventing the scenes, imagination and ‘a well-calculated freedom of improvisation’, rendering the stage narration a vital easiness in Fireflies too. The ‘magicality’ is to a large extent rendered through the inventive set design by Petia Karadjova, surprising with her unusual extraterrestrial puppet of the Firefly and the two kinds of children’s puppets: of life-size children in the ‘real’ introductory story and of tiny kids, who alter the scope of the journey to the vast outer space, where the Firefly proves to be much larger than them. The transformations of the puppets and the actors, the specific and ingenious theatrical quests of the designer and the director reshape the elusive, but amenable to visualisation theatrical space into funny, vivid, immersed in light and contrasts images, challenging the flight of the children’s imagination. The crew behind the production define its meaning in such a way: ‘…there is a flight over the Earth, but there is also a flight of the heart and the soul out there, where everyone can be very happy, into the worlds of fantasy and genuine intimacy.’