All our bodies or for the scars of living


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Georgi Gospodinov’s texts carry a strong contemporary theatricality. And here we are talking not only about his dramatic works (so far, he has two plays – DJ, 2003 and The Apocalypse Comes at 6 PM, 2009), but also about all his texts, about his novels and poetry. They are especially close to the attitudes of today’s humans to stay alone for a long time with their experiences, with their joys and obsessions, to go through what is happening around them and to make sense of it, above all as everyday little stories they tell themselves and to others, to try to find and explain their place in the world, which at the same time fascinates and frightens them, delving into their memories, into what they have read and experienced, into the waves of information and images that flood them from everywhere. Georgi Gospodinov is one of the most original and insightful representatives of this dominant trend on both the literary and theatrical scene. But the real actual stage potential, the unexpectedly strong dose of new theatricality is set in his language. He is very sensory, constantly creating and referring to images and small game situations, tense with expectations to be read/played.

It is this specific theatricality of Georgi Gospodinov’s prose works that he very skilfully captures and brings to the stage the latest performance of the Yambol Drama Theatre, All Our Bodies, based on texts by the emblematic Bulgarian writer, winner of many international and national awards for literature, who in May was also awarded the International Booker Prize for his novel Time Shelter. The director Martin Kiselov has made together with the author an impressive collage of his various texts. He traces both the path of a person throughout their life – from childhood and adolescence through youth and adulthood to aging and death, and the path of the writer, but also of each of us during the last four or five turbulent decades. Consisting of fragmentary phrases, scattered memories, images of people and faces stored in the mind, of individual objects and sensations of touch, of completeness and loneliness, ridiculous events and inexplicable excitement and despair, this ever-changing and hesitant narrative is not so much an attempt to reconstruct what has happened as the constantly accompanying history of our body, which has imprinted thousands of obvious and subtle scars of what we have experienced and read, it is the incredible story of all our bodies that we have inhabited so far in our lives. Or as Georgi Gospodinov very accurately summarized this short story: “I realize, probably like many before me, that among my personal memories there are many born of books. Reading produces memories. I don’t remember for a long time and I’ve given up looking for which are read and which are not. I can’t find any difference, everything has been experienced, everything gives me goosebumps, everything has left a scar. On all my bodies…”.

The text proposed by the author and the director was undoubtedly a very strong challenge for the actors. A challenge to which they rush with great curiosity. And this helps them gradually, more and more, to enter it as a familiar and cosy space, to turn words and memories into their own or, more precisely, to find in them unexpected experiences, to find in the powerful and constantly changing narrative their personal stories, the scars on all their bodies.

A very good decision of the director to achieve such a personal experience during the performance for all performers as well as for the spectators present in the salon is the choice of the collaborative (devising) principle of work. The idea that the performance should be accessible to people with impaired hearing by projecting on the black round of the stage the fragmentary phrases that the actors at the same time utter has been very ingeniously turned into a defining part of the aesthetics of the performance. Recalled words and phrases fill the space around the person together with faces and objects, with events and sensations. The actors speak them not to be heard/seen, but to relive them, to fit into them, to feel the aura and aroma of the past that they hide.

The set of All Our Bodies based on texts by Georgi Gospodinov, director Martin Kiselov,
set designer Iliana Kancheva

The very personal relationship of each of the actors with the text, sought and provoked in this way by the director, proves to be particularly attractive for the whole team. Georgi Karaivanov, Galina Ivanova, Petya Boycheva, Tsvetelina Kaneva, Rumen Mihaylov, Georgi Ruzhichka, and Miroslav Dimitrov offer unexpectedly interesting and candid readings of Georgi Gospodinov’s text, which also creates the great charm and impact of the performance. In the strong work of the Yambol troupe in this performance, I would like to highlight Valcho Yanev’s impressive performance with his acting precision and human depth. Also important for the overall stylish and exciting image of the play is the ingenious décor by Iliana Kancheva, reminiscent of the abandoned room with accumulated furniture and boxes of memories, as well as the wonderful music of Kalin Nikolov.

A performance about the man and (the scars of) his life that must be seen!

All our bodies

based on texts by Georgi Gospodinov

Directed by Martin Kiselov; set design by Iliana Kancheva; music by Kalin Nikolov; choreography by Atanas Zhekov

Cast: Georgi Karaivanov, Galina Ivanova, Petya Boycheva, Tsvetelina Kaneva, Valcho Yanev, Rumen Mihaylov, Georgi Ruzhichka, and Miroslav Dimitrov

Premiere on October 9, 2023, Drama Theatre – Yambol

Sofia premiere on November 1, 2023, on the stage of the Bulgarian Army Theatre

All our bodies or for the scars of living

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