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September 24, 2021

Tonight at the National: Exiles

Bulgarian director Alexander Morfov introduces to the Romanian public his greatest success, “Exiles”

Morfov is easily the most recognisable name in contemporary Bulgarian theatre. In short, his performances are extraordinary, sold out and have earned him dozens of awards.

The beginning of Morfov´s theatre career was accommodated in various theatres around Bulgaria. However, most spectators first met with his work on the big stage of the Bulgarian National Theatre. The latter being a grand space, Morfov took good advantage of it – with large scale, spectacular, vibrant performances.

While Shakespeare´s plays are indisputably sharp, Morfov´s stagings on Midsummer Night´s Dream and The Tempest were memorably hilarious. Morfov´s performances still appear at the Bulgarian National Theatre, the most recent of them being Don Juan (premiere in 2006) and Exiles (premiere in 2004 to mark the 100th anniversary of the theatre). In addition, lately Morfov doubles as a favorite of Russian theatre audiences in St. Petersburg and Moscow. His production Eclipse (2006), based on Ken Kesey´s “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” was highly acclaimed by critics. Its most praised quality was the spot on casting of Russian actor Alexander Abdulov, which ensured a performance of McMurphy´s character comparable to that of Jack Nicholson in Milos Forman´s movie.

Apart from working on “high” stages as these, Morfov has a flair for unconventional spaces. He created The Wedding/The Funeral, part of a site-specific event Intercult, Stockholm produced in collaboration with Stockholm – Cultural Capital of Europe 1998. The performance took place outside and inside the building of the Old State Archive in Stockholm.

In a meeting with the press yesterday, Morfov said that, although “Exiles” is a play that is based in classical times, its message is deeply connected to modernity. “Today’s feelings are not much different of those expressed in ‘Exiles’ he explains.

“Those, who, like us, have been through communist times, know what it means to be free, some of us were revolutionaries, some were happy to stay in the street. For me, though, it was tougher to understand what it means not to be free.” Based on Ivan Vazov’s short story, Exiles tells the story of a handful of refugees who flee to Romania and plan a revolution that would help free their country from the Turks. More than any other work in twenty-first century Bulgarian drama, Alexander Morfov’s Exiles has become a theatrical rarity, something that appeals unanimously to the wider public and critics alike. The play has been showered with popular and critical awards, including best director, best actor in a leading role, and technical accomplishment. Critics have agreed that Bulgaria has not produced a more successful production in over ten years.

Morfov starts from a legend of the revolutionary uprising against the Ottoman Empire in the 1870s in order to present a bitter yet credible commentary on contemporary Bulgarian life. Disillusioned by the greed and rampant consumerism that have overwhelmed Bulgaria in the last fifteen years, Morfov attempts to convey absurdity of the contemporary Bulgarian capitalist paradigm.

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