Bulgarian Rites – Theatre in Shumen



wassiliosnikitakis-shumen-bulagria-theatre-portraits-fuji-acros-blackandwhite-bulgaria-3191BW Kopie

Shumen is a small town in the Northeast of Bulgaria, an economical weak region of the already poorest country in the European Union. There’s a lot of unemployment and poverty. Especially young people leave the country to work abroad. Instead of attractive jobs one can find a lot of betting business in Shumen. And some monumental buildings, impressive concrete skeletons, some of them unfinished, signs of a socialist past with its utopian dreams. The poster in front of the town hall looks like a film still of the movie ‚Blade Runner‘.

In the last eight months I had visited and documented the work of freelance choreographers in Athens, Zagreb and Tokyo. Before I went to Shumen my expectations hadn’t been high. There is a big theatre on the main pedestrian street, build in a typical brutalist style. Although this building was finished, once you’re inside you can sense the lack of money, you can feel that its best days may have past.

But during my stay, I’ve sensed also a very different feeling: that a theatre’s structure is nothing compared to its people who work and create there – and fill it with life. Stefaniya Georgieva and her sister Kalina came from Sofia to Shumen for a longterm project and gathered a group of female dancers and actors to make a new piece, rooted in ancient Bulgarian rites. They surprised me every day with their amount of creativity and energy, filling the sometimes saddening space.