By Konstantin Iliev
Vladimir Penev and students from prof. Penko Gospodinov’s acting class at NATFA “Krastyo Sarafov”
“Most of Konstantin Iliev’s plays avoid the usual pitfalls, the balancing act at the edge of what is permissible. The ones that approach attitudes and values that are essential to Bulgarian culture, the ones that offer a bulgarian reflection on the most important events in Bulgarian and XXth century history through dramatic problematization, shall remain among the best ever created by Bulgarian dramaturgy. “Easter Wine” and “Nirvana” are only the most commanding names.” These words by prof. Violeta Decheva were written years ago, but they remain relevant to this day, when we have the opportunity to see a production of the play “Easter Wine” for the second time on the stage of the National theatre.
It is a play that has become a beloved and cherished classic of the theatre canon, which has toured Bulgarian theatre stages with tremendous succes.
Director Ivan Dobchev staged the play at the NT in 1993 with the unforgettable Velko Kanev as Pop Krastyo Nikiforov and Tsvetan Alexiev as Getcho the Mute. Now, on the eve of the 150th anniversary of Vasil Levski’s hanging, director Javor Gardev undertakes the magnificent task of resurrecting the Apostle’s image in our imagination. And is there a better way of doing it, if not with Konstantin Iliev’s “Easter Wine”? We will see the actors Vladimir Penev, who takes the role of Pop Krastyo, and Pavlin Petrunov who shall play Gecho the Mute.
On Easter Sunday, 1880, an hour before noon, Pop Krastyo came to his church to celebrate Mass of the Second Resurrection. The Holy gifts from the Easter service the night before were left unconsumed - no one from the congregation of Lovech came to the church of the priest suspected of betraying Vasil Levski.
Pop Krastyo, in violation of the canon, but out of pastoral care and in the hope of reconciliation with the people of Lovech, had kept the altar wine in the chalice unused, so that he could give a layman communion during the day. The church, however, also remains empty today. Apparently, no one seeks to receive communion from the hand of Pop Krastyo. A gulf has opened up between the priest and the congregation of Lovech. It seems that he will have to take the Holy Communion by himself, which he is obliged to do, although being late.
As he approaches the chalice, however, Pop Krastyo remembers that according to the statutes of the Internal Revolutionary Organization, of which he himself had been a member before the Liberation, treason is punishable by death. Could it be that the former komitadjis of Lovech had gone so far as to pour poison into the altar wine while it was out of his sight? Is that why no one comes to take communion with this wine? Because it is poisoned? Whose hand would dare to sow death by profaning the sacred gifts, the flesh and blood of Christ?
The only other person hanging around is Getcho the Mute - the mad cleric who will be put to the test by Pop Krastyo through a passionate accusatory speech against the deeds of the Apostle of Freedom.
Before we mark the 150th anniversary of the hanging of the founder of the Internal Revolutionary Organization - Vasil Ivanov Kunchev, we have the opportunity to resurrect the presence of Levski in our imagination. For the past three years the team of this current performance, leaning on the solid shoulders of its two doyens - the playwright Konstantin Iliev and the artist Pavel Koychev, has been slowly and patiently waiting for the opportunity to meet the resurrected presence of the Apostle through the words of Pop Krastyo. It is precisely within the city of Sofia, where the gallows were raised a century and a half ago, on Deacon Ignatius Street, whose name reminds us every day of who it is that we lost on those gallows, that we will once again hear the accusations of Pop Krastyo Totev Nikiforov against the only undisputed Bulgarian hero. With the piercing words of Konstantin Iliev and among the objects of Pavel Koychev, we will delve into the shared pain and joy of that quiet, wise, deep and true patriotism, of which artists like these two are still capable. Even at a time when the faces of the saints hang from their waists.
Boryana Miteva, Irina Ivanova, and Iveta Ivanova
Stefan N. Shterev
Stefan N. Shterev
1110 premiere since 1904.
Premiere on the 30 of November and the 1 of December 2022.