A Home for Sheep and Dreams
WRITTEN & PERFORMED BY: ZDRAVA KAMENOVA
DIRECTED BY: GERGANA DIMITROVA
LIVE MUSIC: PAVEL TERZIYISKI
LIVE VIDEO AND COSTUME DESIGN: NIKOLA NALBANTOV
ASSISTANT DIRECTOR: OLGA KOCHANOVA
SET DESIGN: NATASHA VON STEIGER
FROM: 36 MONKEYS
DATE ATTENDED: 4 JUNE 2019
What I Saw
A Home for Sheep and Dreams is a one woman show with live electronic music. The writer/performer inhabits a variety of characters throughout the production, all as though those characters are visions thrust upon the performance’s central character, Bulgarian mystic Baba Vanga. Through the character of Baba Vanga (the ‘Nostradamus of the Balkans’), Zdrava channels visions of Bulgarian refugees in 1913, the cow Penka (which crossed the border from Bulgaria into Serbia in 2018 and is currently a refugee being held in a detention center itself), and contemporary Syrian refugees.
The performance itself was minimalistic, but the lack of extravagant stage design only contributed to the on-stage magic by putting the burden of the performance onto its sole performer. Zdrava shouldered that burden with grace and virtuosity; equipped with nothing more than a hooded jacket reminiscent of sheep’s wool, she displayed impressive feats of vocal and physical dexterity as she moved through the show’s various characters. Simply by adjusting the way in which she wears her jacket and approaching a new microphone, Zdrava transformed into a wholly new person in full view of the audience. For this performance, she was nominated for a 2019 Ikar award for best actress - a well-earned honor. The show’s video and sound designs effectively supported Zdrava at every turn, never stealing the focus from her while never leaving her unsupported in her longer monologues.
The production cleverly draws parallels between the refugee crisis of 1913-1923 generated by waves of population displacement in the Balkan region and the contemporary refugee crisis facing Europe. Bulgaria, in its geographic proximity to Turkey and the Middle East, serves as a conduit to Europe for refugees; quite directly, the production attempts to conjure sympathy from its mostly Bulgarian audience for the refugees passing through their lands by drawing an equivalency between the refugee history of some Bulgarians themselves and the contemporary moment - all in the name of exposing the similarity (and inhumanity) of seeking ethnic purity across historical frames of reference. With more than a hint of sardonicism, the production highlights the story of the Bulgarian cow Penka and the extent to which Bulgarians (and Europe-at-large) rallied to prevent her extermination, apposing it to the lack of sympathy the production asserts contemporary Europe feels for its human refugees, with the aim of reminding its audience that - at different historical points - they and their ‘people’ have also been the ‘undesired’ group, floating through existence without a land to call home.