Out Of The Forest Theatre nail it once again with The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First at the VAULT Festival
“I did what I could…
I would hardwire Out Of The Forest Theatre to my brain if I could, something about the way in which they think about theatre and the stories that they tell (Call Me Fury; Bury the Hatchet) proving a real shot in the arm and deserving of much bigger renown. But for now, we should rejoice in the smaller spaces in which they’re playing as the intimacy only adds to this special air.
The latest chapter of the history books to receive a breath of their bracingly fresh air is a lesser sung (in this country at least) piece of European history that manifests itself as The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria: Part The First. Written by Joseph Cullen and Sasha Wilson, their inventive mode of storytelling probes into the mythos of that very storytelling and how history chooses to remember people.
Boris III acceded to the throne when his father abdicated after damaging defeats for Bulgaria in both the Second Balkan War and the First World War. The Second World War eventually saw them as reluctant partners in the Axis but though he met with Adolf Hitler, his role in the Holocaust is one which might surprise and confound and it is this kind of unexpectedness that the show explores, reading into the faultlines of history.
It’s a remarkably clear-sighted play too, not allowing the immense emotiveness of the Holocaust to detract from earlier problematic acts, rather allowing it all to inform the larger picture, which is always painted in shades of grey, even in the shadow of Nazism. Bursts of Bulgarian folk music and easy conversationalism add to this particular spell and it is clear that the company delight in casting it. Plus, I defy you not to want to Wikipedia the shit out of Bulgarian history after seeing this.