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Edinburgh Fringe 2018

The Burning Gadulka

M.K. Theatre

Genre: New Writing, Storytelling, Theatre

Venue: Laughing Horse @ Harry’s Southside


Low Down

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? Where do pandas come into the dilemma? Miro Kokenov takes us on a comic journey of doubt, sarcasm and the wonders of nature.


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!