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THE BURNING GADULKA

Miro Kokenov | View Performers Biography

Theatre

Venue:Harry's Southside, 42 - 44 Buccleuch Street Edinburgh EH8 9LP
Phone: 0131 662 0974
Links: Click Here for venue details, Click here for map
Ticket Prices: Free  
Room: Upstairs
AUG 2-5, 7-12, 14-19, 21-26 at 13:15 (60 min)
 
Show Image

Following a series of failures at music festivals, a Bulgarian musician faces a midlife crisis. Is his lifelong love affair with his instrument – the gadulka, about to be challenged by the arrival of a mysterious girl? Will his crippling shyness destroy any relationship before it can begin? Where do pandas come into the dilemma? Miro Kokenov takes us on a comic journey of doubt, sarcasm and the wonders of nature.

'A worthwhile experience' **** (LondonTheatre1.com).
'Energetic and engaging' **** (Broadway Baby).
'Consuming and purifying’ ***** (BgBen.co.uk).
'A solid show and a good night’s entertainment, with plenty to think about afterwards.' (Everything Theatre).

The performance is inspired by Bulgarian culture and reveals to the audience the characteristics of Bulgarian folklore, traditional dances and costumes.

'Sometimes the Balkans seem to me a terrible place, full of absurdities and severe apathy that disintegrates everything around them. Other times I see their beauty and joy, a strange smile peering stupidly everywhere and making you smile, asking you to go figure them out yourself.' Rayko Baychev


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News and Reviews for this Show

August 17, 2018 Fringe Review
Recommended Show
Miro Kokenov has a story to tell and he tells it vibrantly. In this new writing piece written by award-winning Bulgarian writer Rayko Baychev, translated into English – and performed by Kokenov who also draws on his Bulgarian roots for inspiration. The show’s website describes the writing as a “contemporary Bulgarian monodrama…steeped in Bulgarian folklore.”

In his observations Baychev gives context:

“Sometimes the Balkans seem to me a terrible place, full of absurdities and severe apathy that disintegrates everything around. Other times I see their beauty and joy, a strange smile peering stupidly everywhere and makes you smile, go figure out yourself how and why.”

This is certainly an interesting play and one may pose the question – what or who is a gadulka?! Will he open the box?

Kokenov uses energetic physical acting together with narration to populate the small stage space with a village full of people. He is a solid actor with a range of performance skills, using his voice projection, expressive facial reactions and physical gestures to not only tell, but also enact the story and all of its characters.

The play is well crafted with rich details, highs and lows of the main character and all of the other inhabitants, and the story flows well from start to finish. The situation of the main character is curious and heartfelt, which draws you in to see what happens.

A theme of music is quickly established and the text incorporates fascinating information and opinions about certain instruments and their hierarchy.

Kovenov’s animated and strident delivery is peppered with several well-chosen silent moments and non-verbal reactions. This offers an effective change of pace, and more of these moments would be welcome to enhance the storytelling style. He also performs with charm and tenderness when he talks about a plethora of subjects such as women, logic, certain musical instruments, and he is vulnerable and self-effacing at other times.

The arc of the show and arc of each character is there and Kokenov relishes in his performance as he tells anecdotes, dramatic and humorous stories, plus a joke or two. There’s also a panda story, which is beautifully told with physical gestures. Recommended! Click Here

August 12, 2018 Fringe Review
The Burning Gadulka - Review
Miro Kokenov has a story to tell and he tells it vibrantly. In this new writing piece written by award-winning Bulgarian writer Rayko Baychev, translated into English – and performed by Kokenov who also draws on his Bulgarian roots for inspiration. The show’s website describes the writing as a “contemporary Bulgarian monodrama…steeped in Bulgarian folklore.”

In his observations Baychev gives context:

“Sometimes the Balkans seem to me a terrible place, full of absurdities and severe apathy that disintegrates everything around. Other times I see their beauty and joy, a strange smile peering stupidly everywhere and makes you smile, go figure out yourself how and why.”

This is certainly an interesting play and one may pose the question – what or who is a gadulka?! Will he open the box?

Kokenov uses energetic physical acting together with narration to populate the small stage space with a village full of people. He is a solid actor with a range of performance skills, using his voice projection, expressive facial reactions and physical gestures to not only tell, but also enact the story and all of its characters.

The play is well crafted with rich details, highs and lows of the main character and all of the other inhabitants, and the story flows well from start to finish. The situation of the main character is curious and heartfelt, which draws you in to see what happens.

A theme of music is quickly established and the text incorporates fascinating information and opinions about certain instruments and their hierarchy.

Kovenov’s animated and strident delivery is peppered with several well-chosen silent moments and non-verbal reactions. This offers an effective change of pace, and more of these moments would be welcome to enhance the storytelling style. He also performs with charm and tenderness when he talks about a plethora of subjects such as women, logic, certain musical instruments, and he is vulnerable and self-effacing at other times.

The arc of the show and arc of each character is there and Kokenov relishes in his performance as he tells anecdotes, dramatic and humorous stories, plus a joke or two. There’s also a panda story, which is beautifully told with physical gestures. Recommended! Click Here

August 15, 2017  BroadwayBaby
The Burning Gadulka – Review
This hour-long dramatic and comedic monologue is a persistent exploration of why the existence of the gadulka – a traditional Bulgarian folk instrument – is the worst thing that ever happened to a gadulka player. The three-stringed instrument is constantly berated and insulted by sole actor Miro Kokenov throughout this fascinating stream of consciousness. It is ugly and depressing, and fits into Bulgarian folk songs only when drowned out by the tupan drum and bagpipes.
The script of this play, written by Rayko Baychev and translated into English by Angela Rodel, is an oddly enthralling glimpse into Bulgarian folklore and traditions. Kokenov is the perfect fit for this part: energetic and engaging, he is seen screaming and wailing at the instrument, encapsulating self-indulgence, mania and heartbreak with skill. He perfectly captures the typically Bulgarian self-flagellating humour, and there are many laugh-out-loud moments throughout the performance. A particularly memorable scene is where Kokenov, lying seductively on his side, tries (unsuccessfully) to avoid telling an imaginary lover that he is a gadulka player. He also goes on to recount the Bulgarian folk orchestra’s madcap adventures on tour in France, and a lot of the comic delivery is achieved by how the obsessions of the Bulgarians are totally out of step with any of the musicians from anywhere else in the world.
It is a shame that we did not get to hear Kokenov play the gadulka for a more extended period, treated only briefly to an intentionally terrible rendition of Für Elise. Then again, giving the gadulka its own space and time to shine would defeat the very point of this one-sided polemic. At once a nostalgic ode to the traditions that are being killed off by the mechanisation of music, and a screaming good riddance.


At once a nostalgic ode to the traditions that are being killed off by the mechanisation of music, and a screaming good riddance.
 Click Here

March 10, 2017  BgBen
The Burning Gadulka – Review
The Performance The Burning Gadulka by Rajko Baichev presented by Miro Kokenov is an extremely exciting journey that reveals universal problems through the prism of folklore traditions and music.

The protagonist in this story is a Gadulka player (Miro Kokenov) with years of experience in the folklore ensemble. The Gadulka player from the outset clearly indicates the source of his distresses – the Gadulka (his own musical instrument) and the problems the gadulka has caused him. Problems like – fear of taking responsibility, self-pity, his inability to keep pace with the modern times and his inability relationship of the other gender. The Gadulka player persistently blamed the gadulka for his shortcomings and failures. He may as well have chosen a chair or a pen to lash out his inmost anger, dissatisfaction, and interpersonal inadequacy. The gadulka is a mere symbol that brings out all our hidden personal issues and fears.

The Burning Gadulka also reveals the issue with technology reducing the demand for unique craftsmanship and crashing traditions into pixels. The Gadulka player is extinguishing and computers play forever finer tunes. The folklore ensembles breathing their last breaths with last standing members who have no one to hand their skills over to. Some get by from one concert to another, making ends meet, just! Others, however, leave the ensemble and abandon their instruments. I never had the perseverance it takes to master an instrument, but I know it takes years of excruciating labour. It’s like a child that you have brought up with so much care, such efforts and pain. Now seeing it’s all been in vain, must be heart breaking!

Finally, the Gadulka player finds his strength and smashes the gadulka into pieces. Then we see him alone, waiting for the change that will never come, with all his personal issues still unresolved.

After the show I asked myself what is my ‘Gadulka’. For me it was my parents. Only if they’d not argued so much, if they’d not split up, if they’d not sent me to live and study alone at 13 years of age… I would blame them for all my struggles, all my miseries. Then I grew up and met people with perfect families, who were going through the same struggles and so I snapped out of the blame game and managed to get a grip of my life. But not many manage to do so. I wonder what’s your ‘Gadulka’? Do you also use alcohol to run away from it all? Do you use all sorts of excuses, outside of your control or buried into the past, for your failures today? People have a unique way to see beyond the cover and pierce into the depths the others’ self-worth.

On the one hand I'm familiar with technological advancements and I can’t help but favour it, but on the other hand I think of the performance I saw where the symbols of one nation - its folklore and traditions are slowly disappearing due to upcoming technological development. A sinking realisation dawned on me that this loss is irreversible. And I cherished ever more this consuming and purifying hour I spent watching The Burning Gadulka performed by Miro Kokenov. I hope the audience will take this chance to enjoy Bulgarian folklore and as well as The Balkan’s culture.
 Click Here

January 29, 2017  London Theatre 1
“It turns out that while you’re supposedly a musician, you can’t play anything nice by yourself. This, in turn, weighs badly on your self-esteem and throughout your whole life you can never shake the feeling that you’re a total zero without the others, and that you constantly need their help.”

The gadulka in The Burning Gadulka, or indeed anywhere in Bulgarian society, for those as uninitiated as I was before seeing this show, is a string instrument, held vertically, with three strings. Miroslav Kokenov, the sole actor in this intense production, sets about explaining the place of the gadulka at an individual, local, national and international level. I’m still undecided as to whether it genuinely does sound awful (yes, the audience is treated to some gadulka playing) or if I was conditioned to think so beforehand by a long and depressing preamble, in which it is explained, in some detail, and with examples, how the gadulka has led to unhappiness in this professional gadulka player’s life.

At least twice, the musician barks directly at his instrument: initially I thought this ranting at an inanimate object is surely a sign of some form of madness. But I’ve called my computer a ‘stupid machine’ before, and sworn at a self-service checkout at the supermarket – and, on one of my first occasions to use one, said ‘thank you’ to an ATM. Anyway, I mention this being a solo performance as the show draws attention to the gadulka really being an orchestral instrument. On its own it sounds terrible. As part of a Bulgarian folk orchestra, along with everyone else, it blends into the overall sound.

“I steadfastly believe in the ensemble,” the musician tells the audience. I steadfastly believe in them, too (take them out of musicals and the live theatrical experience is much diminished), but in a solo show, it only begs the question: where are they?

There’s a whole backstory as to how this musician ended up a gadulka player – the long and the short of it seemed to be that somebody had to be. But as the complaints stack up, the line of argument seems a little like the violin player who felt the brass section in the orchestra he plays in should get paid less – that is, musicians should be paid by the note (whatever that means – some notes are longer than others, and so on and so forth). I do, however, have some sympathy with Mr Gadulka (as I shall call him), particularly when he talks about the computerisation of music, whereby the technology now exists for software to ‘play’ any instrument. It could, taken to its logical conclusion, spell the death knell for orchestras everywhere.

It’s a sparse set, with few props, one of which is a giant panda, for quite charming reasons, or rather a charming reason, which is explained during the course of the evening’s proceedings. Mr Gadulka tells his story by thinking out loud, as opposed to relentlessly sticking to the subject of the gadulka. It’s like a stream of consciousness that comes across as though improvised, or at least semi-structured (the play is, in fact, fully scripted in the conventional manner). In that regard, it’s not so much the gadulka that’s literally ‘burning’ as the gadulka player, figuratively speaking.

As times are a-changing, the play asserts that the Bulgarian folk orchestras are worthy, if such a thing were possible, of being placed on an equivalent list to WWF’s ‘endangered species’ directory. I don’t think the play will change anyone’s minds, at either a micro or a macro level. The modernists will continue to think we should move with the times and embrace the twenty-first century. The traditionalists will insist that hundreds of years’ worth of folk music can and should continue. For my part, if his instrument is seriously as dreadful as Mr Gadulka says it is, perhaps it is best consigned to history after all. To put it another way, I wasn’t sold on the old gadulka.

Still, it’s easier said than done to embrace change. The play does provide an intriguing insight into Bulgarian living, delivered at an appropriately brisk pace. Albeit mostly of a sarcastic and slightly bitter variety, there’s humour to be found in this touching production. A worthwhile experience.
 Click Here

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