The Lower Depths
Ivan Vazov National Theatre of Bulgaria, Sofia
premiere 7 November 1997, Main stage
* original director's collage after Maxim Gorky's
play, Daniil Kharms' miniatures, zen buddhist's
koans and other improvisations
Milen Petrov, Denislav Goev (trumpets), Krasimir Vankov (clarinet), Luben Mladenov (waldhorn), Dyanko Dyankov (zugtrombone), Ivo Kussev (percussions)
Mihail Petrov, Maria Kavardzhikova, Karla Rachal, Krastyo Lafazanov, Nikolay Kostadinov, Valentin Tanev, Ana Papadopulu, Renny Vrangova, Albena Koleva, Marin Yanev, Stoyan Alexiev, Roussi Chanev, Valentin Ganev, Naum Shopov, Hristo Cheshmedzhiev, Teodor Elmazov, Plamen Peev
To me, "The Lower Depths" marks parting with the romantic idea of our world. A parting that is very intimate and with the means of romanticism. Because parting with romanticism is a romantic act in itself. And we're again stuck at the lower depths. But maybe once we were merely mislead for not being at the lower depths, while the water around us has always been severely cloudy.
Sometimes I think that it is a form of perversion - to witness suffering and to enjoy this image. It is a form of masochism to create joyful theatre out of suffering. Vulgarity is fashionable and being vulgar is far from difficult.
Being poor and yet high-minded brings a special kind of pride.
It's much more difficult to ask your fellows to tie you up the ship mast, as Odysseus did, so that you will have the strength to endure the road back to yourself and to resist all temptations. It's much easier to simply shut your eyes and ears and just row, endlessly. To row, devoted to another temptation - mediocrity. This is more commen with the weak people, but also more human in nature. That's what makes the characters from "The Lower Depths" so prepossessing. Human nature is prepossessing. Their quetly remain in their lives' pit and live them carelessly.
The conflict in this text lies between letting yourself to your destiny and believing that nothing depends on you, or chosing to fight, voluntarily, to make purposeful choices in life. Both are as right as they are wrong. There are no general rules. The world is colorful and you must be an idiot if you want to operate everything and everyone with a formula. The strong mind shapes itself, but the road of the strong is not the road of the weak.
Whether consciously or not, the characters from "The Lower Depths" are enjoying their freedom. Because they have no commitments - to anything, to anyone. The poor man is the most sophisticated philosopher. It is an illusion that a good meal will triger your mind. What's the ultimate wish of the person who is replete with food? - Sleep.
You ask yourself what is more valuable: being a passanger on a luxurious transatlantic ship or sailing little ships from pine bark along your local river? In the first case you exist according to circumstances, while in the second you are a creator. Maybe among those passengers on the luxurious ship you will find someone who secretly dreams of sailing little ships from pine bark along some river, while among those who do, are secretly dreaming of being passengers on a luxurious ship. But they have no idea that once they enter there, on the wide white deck they will start dreaming of the small pine bark ship they used to hold in their hands. This closes the cycle.
The characters of "The Lower Depths" are not interested in existential problems. They don't even want to listen about them. The live, carelessly. And when they die, Kafka's character are born. Whether this word, man, rings proud - it is a matter of personal opinion.
What is ultimately funny, is that while learning more about ourselves our suffering actually grows stronger.
~ Alexander Morfov
I was cold and I was lonely.
I turned on the heater
and flew up in the sky with it.
I'm lying, I'm lying.
I have no heater.
I simply flew up in the sky.
~ Ludmil Stanev
"I'm gradually starting to embrangle the four-floor dramaturgical sock with poetry but not by the means of poetry. Don't tell the journalists... I feel like I've made it in one scene - because the sun is the main character there. When will I be ready? God knows!"
Part I Part II
"Askeer" Annual Theatre Award 1998 - Alexander Morfov, Stage Director of the Year
"Askeer" Annual Theatre Award 1998 - Best Theatre Production
"Askeer" Annual Theatre Award 1998 - Vecheslav Parapanov, Set Desinger
"Askeer" Annual Theatre Award 1998 - Kiril Donchev, Music
"Icarus" Annual Theatre Award, given by the Union of Bulgarian Actors, 1998 - Alexander Morfov, Stage Director of the Year
"Icarus" Annual Theatre Award, given by the Union of Bulgarian Actors, 1998 - Maria Kavardzhikova, Leading Female Role
Theatre Celebrations - Blagoevgrad 1998 - Alexander Morfov, Stage Director, 1st prize
Theatre Celebrations - Blagoevgrad 1998 - Vecheslav Parapanov, Set Designer, 1st prize
Theatre Celebrations - Blagoevgrad 1998 - Maria Kavardzhikova, Leading Female Role, 1st prize
Theatre Celebrations - Blagoevgrad 1998 - Valentin Tanev, Leading Male Role, 2nd prize
"The theatre landscape is realistically cruel. As always in Morfov's productions the audio-visual appearance of the staging is at the highest level. Set design and music are perfectly refined while the intriguing intermissions of the Narrator create an ambience as if in a fairy tale. On stage we see an unparalleled perfection, almost cinematographic, that in certain moments leaves the viewer speechless. [...] This production is an example for Bulgarian theatre at a European level. An international production that sets no language barriers."
~ "The Lower Depths" - Magic on Stage | K. Peychev, Literature newspaper, 18.11.1997
"Morfov's "The Lower Depths" is kneaded with the typical Balkan clownary, not simply enjoying the charming gags, but also preserving the unique quality of storytelling about apocalypse without seizing to move, dance and curse loudly. Beyond this thick, untamed and intricately woven embroidery of theatrical roughness you can see Morfov's light for true theatrical poetry."
~ Gorky's "The Lower Depths" Goes to NET | P. Sigalov, Kommersant newspaper (Moscow), republished by Literature newspaper, 20.01.1999
"Morfov has created an impressive production. It uses the sense of humor as the strongest weapon against the doom of human existence. Morfov's style can be compared to the harsh farce of Charlie Chaplin or Laurel and Hardy. In fact, this style is well used in modern Bulgarian theatre, while the very promising young art director of the National Theatre is considered to be among the most interesting theatre artisans in Eastern Europe."
~ The Critics Compare Morfov with Chaplin. Dutch Journalists are Exulted | A. Atanassova, Standart newspaper, 10.10.2000
"While seemingliy depoeticising Gorky by wildly parodying everything that he found intrinsic to the dramatic approach of the playwright; while setting on stage the halo (at first a garland, but later - a thorn crown) that was given to Gorky due to his socially realistic engagement, Morfov bravely brings us to a turning point developing a game of rich imagination that will paradoxically bring us back to Gorky but his sense and ideology is now unstable. [...] There is only one thing to say - the production proved to be a supreme mastery."
~ An Uprisal at the Lower Depths | Glas Yavnosti newspaper
Morfov: Every person is a Poem that Still Has not Come True | Interview by M. Miteva, Democracy newspaper, 5.11.1997
Live Brass-band in "The Lower Depths" | I. Vagalinska, Novinar newspaper, 7.11.1997
"The Lower Depths" - a Territory of Freedom | Sega newspaper, 10.11.1997
"The Lower Depths" - between Living Hell and Freedom | Democracy newspaper, 10.11.1997
Antidepressant for Redheads, or a Memory from the Russian Language Classes | M. Kassimova, Sega newspaper, 13-19.11.1997
Alexander Morfov, Pressure and Infliction | L. Tsvetkov, Theatre magazine, Janruary 1998
Alexander Morfov Triumphs in Belgrade with "The Lower Depths" | Standart newspaper, 20.09.1999
"The Lower Depths" Shines at the Belgrade Theatre Festival | For the Woman newspaper, 19.10.1999
50-th Performance of "The Lower Depths" | Standart newspaper, 28.01.2000
Paradoxes of Overcoming Suffering | C. Dobrev, Bulgarian Writer newspaper, 15.02.2000
"The Lower Depths" Tours in Skopje | BTA, 29.05.2001