Yordan Slaveykov presented his author's play "The Spider" to the Ukrainian audience

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Yordan Slaveykov presented his author's play "The Spider" to the Ukrainian audience
Yordan Slaveykov presented his author's play "The Spider" to the Ukrainian audience

Bulgarian director Yordan Slaveikov, who together with his colleague Dimitar Kasabov is the author and director of the play "The Spider", staged the play in Ukrainian with Ukrainian actors in the city of Rivne. The premiere took place in June with three consecutive performances on the stage of the Rivne Academic Ukrainian Music and Drama Theater. Tickets for all performance dates in June and July have been pre-sold.

It all started in 2013 at the "Golden Wreath" International Theater Festival in Moscow, where the Bulgarian play "The Spider", performed by actors Penko Gospodinov and Anastasia Lyutova, won the standing ovation of the jury. Also at the festival is the long-time director of the theater in Rivne, People's Artist of Ukraine Volodymyr Petriv, who likes "The Spider" very much and even then promises that one day this play will be performed on his stage.

7 years later, in the winter of 2020, Yordan Slaveykov received a message from Irena Borovets, literary agent of the Rivne Theater, with an invitation on behalf of the director to make The Spider as soon as possible. In March, days before the entire world was shut down due to the pandemic, the director flew to Rivne to watch the actors of the theater in one of the premiere productions. He casts with 3 pairs of actors and returns to Bulgaria. Although the appearance of "The Spider" on the Ukrainian stage is delayed by another year, the performance is already a fact in Ukrainian. In the summer of 2017, the play was staged with American actors in English at the Summer Alternative Theater festival in Miami, Florida.


The fact is that the play about the Siamese twins Martin and Martina has enjoyed great interest since its appearance in 2011. Played on the Broadway stage in New York and in several other cities overseas. The New York Times and the Village Voice published extremely good reviews of the Bulgarian performance at the time. The play was shown in Moscow, St. Petersburg and Brussels, it has three prestigious awards from international festivals.


Yordan Slaveikov for the Ukrainian version of "The Spider"

"Even last year, when I was invited to stage "The Spider" in Rivne, I knew that the production would be different from the Bulgarian version and the action would not take place in a bathtub. I thought for a long time and settled on two options. In one, the two conjoined twins Martha and Martin are admitted to the hospital for an operation to separate them and the action takes place in the operating room. And in the second version, which I actually settled on, the spectacle is solved in a hyperrealistic key, not in a conventional one. There is a real home, a real cabinet with dishes, there is a real table, candles, tablecloths, napkins, a real sink with water flowing from it, a Christmas tree.

We worked with the method of physical action: while the actors speak, they perform a chain of simple physical actions

And because it's their birthday and because they don't like the piece of cake they're eating, they start making a real cake right here in front of the audience. Real dough is made from flour, sugar, eggs, grated apples. The spectacle was solved through the hyperreal key. And my challenge was for the actors in this hyperreal and hyperbit key not to play psychological theater. Therefore, we worked with the actors for a long time and quickly found a common language. They understood that the psychology of their behavior was there, it existed, but it was inside them, and that they had to play in a completely different way.

The play "The Spider" is written in the style of the so-called "theatre in your face" or "theatre right in your face", this is a British term. In modern British drama since the 1990s, there are playwrights who write like this. These are Martin McDonagh, Sarah Kane, Mike Ravenhill. Of the Russian dramatists, Nikolai Kolyada sometimes writes like this, Vasiliy Sigarev too. It is a kind of theater that presents before the eyes of the audience, here and now, a huge moral case and examines it brutally directly, deeply, jumping into the subject, not delicately and from a distance.

The serious moral issue addressed in the play The Spider is whether it is permissible for a brother to be in love with his sister

Martin puts this love on the table before Marta realizes that this love is just a game he's trying to use to gauge how much she wants this surgery and how much she doesn't. Thus, the show is sustained until the end. The viewer is invited not to some sweet sugary performance, but to a place that resembles a minefield. And the viewer must tread carefully, because there are mines and traps with each subsequent action. And it worked for us.

After we were closed last year and "The Spider" in Ukraine had to be postponed, then the director of the theater, Volodymyr Petriv, said that it doesn't matter any pandemic and that it will end someday. In August we heard from each other and he confirmed the invitation, now in April we got back in touch and he said as soon as possible I should go and stage the play. I got my second shot at the end of April and a few weeks later I was flying to Ukraine. The next day I did the casting again, I chose the actors and the next day and we immediately started rehearsals. Every day twice for 3 hours a day, including Saturdays and Sundays, including their day off Monday.“

The Spider is a truly inspiring rehearsal process for the entire Ukrainian team

Out of all logic around the middle of the rehearsal process, everyone noticed that actors Ksenia Murina and Dmytro Pshechuk were starting to look alike. First the director notices it, then the staff photographer, and later another outside photographer taking pictures of the performance also notices it.

The director's take on this is that there are things that don't need to be explained, "like when someone explains love, there are things that just happen".

“I have given and received a lot of love and it inspires me to no end. Every day I went and saw that these people there love me and I love them, and we love what we have dedicated ourselves to - the theater. And that's right. This will stay with me forever, even when I was leaving, I wasn't sad and we didn't say goodbye, we said see you soon.

These people saw how dedicated I am to this thing, how much I love it and how much I love the actors. It happened seamlessly, the whole process happened very smoothly, the whole team felt inspired and we didn't get tired. We got up early in the morning and went to rehearsals with great desire."

The role of assistant director Galina Sharko in the rehearsal process is particularly important. The costume designer of the play is Anna Pilyugina.

The theme of The Spider is love

As in any good play, the viewer sits down, watches and decides for himself what the play is about. At one of the first shows in Rivne, a fellow actress from the theater watched. And she said that this play is not about any relationships between any people, because Martha and Martin are one. In fact, she has realized for herself that this play is about herself, about her fears, about her good and bad part. And this happens with each of the viewers, each of them experiences the play inside themselves and it touches different strings of them.

Generally speaking, the theme is love and how difficult it is to be with someone, no matter how banal. And it is only when we are not with him that we appreciate who he is to us, what he represented. All these things can sound endlessly trite because they are often overexposed clichés, but when the viewer watches, he chooses for himself which part touched his mind.

The director of the theater in Rivne, Ukraine will stage the play "Victoria" by Yordan Slaveikov

At the beginning of the new theater season in the fall, the director of the theater Volodymyr Petriv will stage the play "Victoria", written by his Bulgarian colleague. And at the end of the season, Jordan is about to go to Rivne again, where he is invited to do a new show.

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