Review of “To Put it Mildly”, a debut performance for director Denis Simeonov

“To put it mildly” by the director Denis Simeonov at the “Atelier 313” Theater
To lie in a dream
Gabriela Evstatieva
Production team
Author according to Valeri Petrov
Directed by Denis Simeonov
Participants: Yordan Tinkov, Ivelin Nikolov, Mariana Petrova, Stajko Stajkov, Balena Lanzheva, Venceslav Dimitrov

Denis Simeonov is a debutant puppetry director who makes his first professional experience on stage, taking on the text of Valery Petrov “To put it mildly”. The play is performed in the Atelier 313 theater and delights young and old alike with its original point of view. Simeonov made an author’s adaptation of the tale, drawing inspiration from other texts of the Bulgarian poet and playwright. The puppet actors: Yordan Tinkov, Ivelin Nikolov, Mariana Petrova, Stayko Staykov, Balena Landzheva, Ventseslav Dimitrov, who graduated from NATFIZ “Krastyo Sarafov” in the class of Prof. Zheni Pashova, as well as the director, take part in the performance.

The plot tells about the little Svetlio, who receives a letter from his grandmother with three levs in it, but it turns out that they are not enough for him to get the toy he wants so much. So he decides to lie. He prepares a letter to his grandmother, in which he tells her that the three levs have not arrived and wants to send him three more. In an absolutely innocent and childlike way, the little hero molds the paradoxical lie to get what he wants. These intentions of his set in motion the pedagogical mentoring of adults that manifests in his dream. Svetlio has already sent his letter in. Then his imagination meets him with a St. Bernard dog, who takes on the role of the elderly mentor and helps him realize his mistake. The adventures they go through to return the letter teach the little boy various virtues such as trust, friendship and honesty. Finally, the little boy realizes what would happen if he sends the letter and decides not to. The lesson is brought out at the end of the tale, namely that lies are bad and always come out.

The action in the play by director Denis Simeonov is very dynamic and holds the attention of both children and their parents. The space of the stage is filled with a variety of objects, which at any given moment are used and brought to life by the actors. It relies heavily on lighting to focus the viewer’s attention on a particular part of the scene or a particular action.

The only puppet in the show is that of the main character, Svetlio – blond, blue-eyed and naive. It is led by different actors on the stage in the course of the action, which changes the character in a specific way. It makes him more layered and different in his reactions to given situations. One moment he is kind and compassionate, the next he is grumpy and impatient.

The overall aesthetic of the performance is decided in a specific time and that is the period before the political changes in Bulgaria in 1989. There are the workers’ clothes, the old newspapers, the post box, inscriptions and many other symbols that refer to that time. This makes the performance more intriguing for adults, but also does not harm the children’s audience.

It also uses elements of the Commedia dell’Arte, which are visible mostly in the wearing of masks, the spur-of-the-moment improvisation in some of the scenes, and the live accordion musical performances. All this makes this take on the tale attractive and non-standard.

Translation is funded by National Culture Fund.