First up I need to apologise, the title to this play is truncated in the Theatre Bubble website header as it is simply too long to fit the wordpress letter count! The full title should read: The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria.
The truth is often stranger than fiction and there is something gleeful about a theatre show that has found one of those stories hardly anyone knows to share with us all. Better yet if the story in question looks like it might fall on the wrong side of history and then redeems itself.
In a nutshell Boris III of Bulgaria ascended to the throne rather earlier than expected after his father’s abdication in shame post WW1. An outsider in his own country, as only the second generation of an externally sourced monarchy, Boris felt both a huge responsibility to his people and their lands, but also affinity to the increasingly ostracized Jews in his kingdom. An issue consolidated by forming an allyship with the Third Reich, who offered to reclaim some of Bulgaria’s lost lands.
The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria by Out of the Forest Theatre is a perfectly paced, witty and inventive retelling of history peppered with glorious pockets of extra detail and background throughout. It’s sparsely told on a limited set, with only a small number of costumes and props (although a glorious detail is every paper prop is sheet music), underscored by Jewish and Bulgarian live music.
Four of the five strong cast are actor-musicians and multi-role across the story, with the only constant Boris himself, sympathetically played with quiet resolve by Joseph Cullen. David Leopold and Lawrence Boothman’s Nazi sympathising prime minister and home secretary are also particularly (and unpleasantly) engaging.
You can just tell when a team of theatre makers have had a ball creating and performing a show, and The Brief Life & Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria is a prime example – 70mins spent in their company is a pleasure.
Writers – Joseph Cullen & Sasha Wilson
Director & Dramaturg – Hannah Hauer-King
Ensemble – Lawrence Boothman, Joseph Cullen, Clare Fraenkel, David Leopold & Sasha Wilson
Producer – Claire Gilbert
Lighting Designer – Will Alder
Stage Manager – Zoë MacKinnon
Set Designer – Sorcha Corcoran
Costume Designer – Helen Stewart
The Brief Life and Mysterious Death of Boris III, King of Bulgaria will be continuing its run at Pleasance Dome until 28 August 2023 at 17:20 daily. You can book your tickets via The Ed Fringe or Pleasance